References to "Sola Fide" Prior to Luther

In his commentary on Romans, Fitzmyer comments that Luther was not the first to invoke sola fide in his translation of Romans. Others used the term in a broader context as well. Below the atericks is what Fitzmyer states on pp. 360-361 of Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993).


At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 [1909], 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.

Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).

Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):

Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 83.1001; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).

Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).

See further:

Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.

Marius Vicorinus (ed. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).

Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”).


Other citations:

To this above that Fitzmyer listed in his commentary, I add the following data, some (or most) of which I’ve posted here before...

Clement of Rome: Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. ANF: Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 30. In other words, Clement is simply affirming that declaring our selves to be justified by “our words,” is not the proof of our justification, but our works; because here it is our works contrasted with our words, not our faith. He says, “Let us clothe ourselves, etc., i.e. demonstrate in deed that what we believe concerning ourselves is true, rather than merely claiming it. Otherwise, what he goes on to say two chapters later is utterly meaningless. For he goes on to say...

Clement of Rome: Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ANF: Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 32.

It’s clear, then, that Clement denies in no uncertain terms that our works, performed in a state of grace, serve meritoriously in any sense as the grounds on which we’re justified, and declares that faith, not our works, has always been the means by which God justifies all men.

Mathetes to Diognetus: As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Savior who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food. Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume I, Mathetes to Diognetus, Chapter 9.

Chrysostom (349-407): The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, “Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness.” Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. 167.

Chrysostom (349-407): For if even before this, the circumcision was made uncircumcision, much rather was it now, since it is cast out from both periods. But after saying that “it was excluded,” he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? “By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 7, vs. 27.

Chrysostom (349-407): For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8, Rom. 4:1, 2.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), wrote while commenting upon 1 Cor. 1:4b: God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6. Migne’s latin: Datam dicit gratiam a Deo in Christo Jesu, quae gratia sic data est in Christo Jesu; quia hoc constitutum est a Deo, ut qui credit in Christum, salvus sit sine opere: sola fide gratis accipit remissionem peccatorum. In Epistolam B. Pauli Ad Corinthios Primam, PL 17:185.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 1:11: For the mercy of God had been given for this reason, that they should cease from the works of the law, as I have often said, because God, taking pity on our weaknesses, decreed that the human race would be saved by faith alone, along with the natural law. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 23. Migne’s latin: Nam misericordia Dei ad hoc data est, ut Lex cessaret, quod saepe jam dixi; quia Deus consulens infirmitati humanae, sola fide addita legi naturali, hominum genus salvare decrevit. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:53.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 2:12: For if the law is given not for the righteous but for the unrighteous, whoever does not sin is a friend of the law. For him faith alone is the way by which he is made perfect. For others mere avoidance of evil will not gain them any advantage with God unless they also believe in God, so that they may be righteous on both counts. For the one righteousness is temporal; the other is eternal. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 65. Migne’s latin: Si enim justo non est lex posita, sed injustis; qui non peccat, amicus legis est. Huic sola fides deest, per quam fiat perfectus quia nihil illi proderit apud Deum abstinere a contrariis, nisi fidem in Deum acceperit, ut sit justus per utraque; quia illa temporis justitia est, haec aeternitatis. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:67.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:24: They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 101. Migne’s latin: Justificati gratis per gratiam ipsius. Justificati sunt gratis, quia nihil operantes, neque vicem reddentes, sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:79.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:27: Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 103. Migne’s latin: Ubi est ergo gloriatio tua? Exclusa est. Per quam legem? factorum? Non, sed per legem fidei. Reddita ratione, ad eos loquitur, qui agunt sub lege, quod sine causa glorientur, blandientes sibi de lege, et propter quod genus sint Abrahae, videntes non justificari hominem apud Deum, nisi per fidem. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:80.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:5: How then can the Jews think that they have been justified by the works of the law in the same way as Abraham, when they see that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law but by faith alone? Therefore there is no need of the law when the ungodly is justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 112. Migne’s latin: Hoc dicit, quia sine operibus legis credenti impio, id est gentili, in Christum, reputatur fides ejus ad justitiam, sicut et Abrahae. Quomodo ergo Judaei per opera legis justificari se putant justificatione Abrahae; cum videant Abraham non per opera legis, sed sola fide justificatum? Non ergo opus est lex, quando impius per solam fidem justificatur apud Deum. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:82-83.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:6, ‘righteousness apart from works’: Paul backs this up by the example of the prophet David, who says that those are blessed of whom God has decreed that, without work or any keeping of the law, they are justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 113. Migne’s latin: Hoc ipsum munit exemplo prophetae. Beatitudinem hominis, cui Deus accepto fert justitiam sine operibus. Beatos dicit de quibus hoc sanxit Deus, ut sine labore et aliqua observatione, sola fide justificentur apud Deum. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:83.

Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428), commenting on Rom. 3:28: Paul did not say we hold because he was himself uncertain. He said it in order to counter those who concluded from this that anyone who wished to could be justified simply by willing faith. Note carefully that Paul does not say simply without the law, as if we could perform virtue by wanting to, nor do we the works of the law by force. We do them because we have been led to do them by Christ. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 104-105.

Oecumenius (6th century), commenting on James 2:23: Abraham is the image of someone who is justified by faith alone, since what he believed was credited to him as righteousness. But he is also approved because of his works, since he offered up his son Isaac on the altar. Of course he did not do this work by itself; in doing it, he remained firmly anchored in his faith, believing that through Isaac his seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 33. See PG 119:481.

Pope Boniface to Caesarius: [Phil. 1:29]--it appears obvious that our faith in Christ, like all good things, comes to individuals from the gift of divine grace and not from the power of human nature. We rejoice that your brotherhood perceived this truth in accordance with catholic faith, when a council of some bishops of Gaul was held. As you have indicated, they decided unanimously that our faith in Christ is conferred on men by the intervention of divine grace. They added that there is absolutely nothing good in God’s eyes that anyone can wish, begin, do, or complete without the grace of God, for as our Savior said, “Without me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]. For it is both a certainty and an article of catholic faith that in all good things, the greatest of which is faith, divine mercy intervenes for us when we are not yet willing [to believe], so that we might become willing; it remains in us when we are willing [to believe]; and it follows us so that we remain in faith. William E. Klingshirn, trans., Caesarius of Arles: Life, Testament, Letters, Letter 20 - Pope Boniface to Caesarius, §2 (Liverpool: University Press, 1994), p. 125.

Bede (672/673-735), commenting on Paul and James: Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 31. Quoniam Paulus apostolus praedicans justificari hominem per fidem sine operibus, non bene intellectus est ab eis qui sic dictum acceperunt, ut putarent, cum semel in Christum credidissent, etiam si male operarentur, et facinorose flagitioseque viverent, salvos se esse per fidem: locus iste hujus epistolae eumdem sensum Pauli apostoli quomodo sit intelligendus exponit. Ideoque magis Abrahae exemplo utitur, vacuam esse fidem si non bene operetur, quoniam Abrahae exemplo etiam Paulus usus est, ut probaret justificari hominem sine operibus posse. Cum enim bona opera commemorat Abrahae, quae ejus fidem comitata sunt, satis ostendit apostolum Paulum, non ita per Abraham docere justificari hominem per fidem sine operibus, ut si quis crediderit, non ad eum pertineat bene operari, sed ad hoc potius, ut nemo arbitretur meritis priorum bonorum operum se pervenisse ad donum justificationis quae est in fide. Super Divi Jacobi Epistolam, Caput II, PL 93:22.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) on Matthew 9: This was forgiven by Christ through faith, because the Law could not yield, for faith alone justifies. Migne’s latin: Et remissum est ab eo, quod lex laxare non poterat; fides enim sola justificat. Sancti Hilarii In Evangelium Matthaei Commentarius, PL 9:961.

Basil of Caesarea: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been, dedikaiwmevnon) justified solely by faith in Christ. See Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, p. 505. Text: oJ kaucwvmeno" ejn kurivw/ kaucavsqw, legwvn o{ti Cristo;~ hJmi`n ejgenhvqh sofiva ajpo; qeou`, dikaiosuvnh te kai; aJgiasmo;" kai; ajpoluvtrwsi": i{na kaqw;" gevgraptai, JO kaucwvmeno", ejn Kurivw/ kaucavsqw. Au{ ga;r dh; hJ teleiva kai; oJlovklhro" kauvchsi~ ejn Qew/`, o{te mhvte ejpi; dikaiosuvnh/ ti~ ejpaivretai th/` eJautou`, ajll j e[gnw me;n ejndeh` o[nta eJauto;n dikaiosuvh~ ajlhqou`~, pivstei de; movnh/ th/` eij~ Cristo;n dedikaiwmevnon. Homilia XX, Homilia De Humilitate, §3, PG 31:529. In context, Basil appealed to the example of the Apostle Paul as a regenerate man in Philippians 3:8-9.

Hilary on Matthew 9: "This was forgiven by Christ through faith, because the Law could not yield, for faith alone justifies." Or see the translation in Aquinas, Thomas. Catena Aurea: A Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, 4 Volumes. Translated and edited by John Henry Cardinal Newman (London: The Saint Austin Press, reprinted 1997), which reads: “the sins of his soul which the Law could not remit are remitted him; for faith only justifies. Migne latin: Et remissum est ab eo, quod lex laxare non poterat; fides enim sola justificat. Commentarius in Evangelium Matthaei, Caput VIII, PL 9:961

Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3: God justifies alone by faith. Ignorantes enim justitiam Dei, et suam quaerentes statuere: justitiae Dei non sunt subjecti. Ignorantes quod ***Deus ex sola fide justificat***: et justos se ex legis operibus, quam non custodierunt, esse putantes: noluerunt se remissioni subjicere peccatorum, ne peccatores fuisse viderentur, sicut scriptum est: Pharisaei autem spernentes consilium Dei in semetipsis, noluerunt baptizari baptismo Joannis. Item quia sacrificia legis, et caetera, quae umbra erant veritatis, quae per Christum perfici habebant, praesentia Christi cessaverunt: cui credere noluerunt: In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.

Thomas Aquinas: The sacraments of the New Law however, although they are material elements, are not needy elements; hence they can justify. Again, if there were any in the Old Law who were just, they were not made just by the works of the Law but only by the faith of Christ “Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation through faith,” as is said in Romans (3:25). Hence the sacraments of the Old Law were certain protestations of the faith of Christ, just as our sacraments are, but not in the same way, because those sacraments were configured to the grace of Christ as to something that lay in the future; our sacraments, however, testify as things containing a grace that is present. Therefore, he says significantly, that it is not by the works of the law that we are justified, but by the faith of Christ, because, although some who observed the works of the Law in times past were made just, nevertheless, this was effected only by the faith of Jesus Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galations, trans. F. R. Larcher, O.P. (Albany: Magi Books, Inc., 1966), Chapter 2, Lecture 4, (Gal. 2:15-16), pp. 54-55.

Augustine: Are all those who are called justified? Many are called but few are chosen. But since the elect have certainly been called, it is obvious that they have not been justified without being called. But not everyone is called to justification; only those who are called according to his purpose. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 237. This is taken directed from his commentary on Romans according to the editor.

(provided courtesy of a friend)


What caused the fractionation in Protestantism?

Scott Clark has an excellent summary, here. Here are some of the salient points:
The medieval Western (Roman) church was a tangle of internal tensions just waiting to burst apart.

If we consider the magisterial, confessional Reformation on historical terms, there were, by 1530, two churches in the West: Protestant and Papist. By 1580, there was one significant division within confessional Protestantism: Lutheran and Reformed and this division continued through the 17th century. There arose distinctions between a variety of polities in the 17th century, and these were on display at the Westminster Assembly, but there they were at the Westminster regarding each other as churches and crafting a common confession of faith.

The source of the millions of churches we see today wasn’t Luther. It was arguably an unorthodox, rationalist Frenchman who died in the middle of the 17th century.

As a matter of history, Rene Descartes has a lot more to do with the proliferation of religious organizations claiming to be “churches” than Martin Luther. It was Decartes who made everyone his own ultimate authority. The sovereign autonomy of the individual is the source of sectarianism, not the Reformation.

The picture is even more complicated than that, however. The radical spirit of the sovereign individual was present well before Descartes. It was present in the Anabaptist movement. They were sectarians and regarded as such by all the Reformers

The Anabaptist movement did not drop out of the sky... Behind them lay groups such as the Cathars and behind them lay the Montanists, Novatianists, and the Donatists. We’ve always had sectarians in the church who had (and have) an over-realized eschatology. The radical, individualist, rationalist-mystical, egalitarian spirit of the Anabaptists was secularized in the Enlightenment and thence we have a million sects with every man his own pope and every preacher his own source of new revelation.


A Compendium of Reformation Resources

Jason Engwer, whom I've had the honor of associating over the last half dozen years, has done a tremendous amount of reading and writing on Reformation topics, which he has shared generously, first through his ministry with NTRMin.org, and now with Triablogue.

Each year for Reformation Day (October 31), Jason has posted a selection that reminds us what a great and tremendous event the Reformation truly was. This year, he has done so again, along with a topical list of resources on various points of Roman Catholicism that still resist any attempt at reforming them.

Triablogue: The Historical Roots Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism

Thanks again Jason!

A brief history of the Reformation Solas

At the Heidelblog.

A comparison of Eucharistic theologies



A couple of classics

James White on Honorius and Development.

A Critique of Newman's Theory on Development of Doctrine

Found here:
My own reasons for not becoming Roman Catholic have not changed. It was precisely the problem of doctrinal development that I found unsatisfactory. I believe that J. B. Mozley's The Theory of Development provides the decisive critique of [John Henry] Newman on development of doctrine. Mozley argues that Newman commits a logical fallacy of amphibole by not distinguishing between two different kinds of development. Newman is correct that there is genuine development in the early church. For example, Nicea's doctrine of the homoousios, or the Trinity as formulated by the Cappadocians, or the Chalcedonian formula of the incarnation as one person and two natures is not found explicitly in the New Testament.

At the same time, however, what is in the New Testament is all the data that make the homoousios, the Trinitarian formula of three persons and one substance, and the Chalcedonian formula necessary conclusions. So, for example, the New Testament is clear that Jesus Christ is not only human, but fully divine. He is the Word who was "with God" and "was God" and was "made flesh" (John 1:1,14). Passages that apply to YHWH in the Old Testament are quoted as referring to Jesus in the New Testament (Phil. 2:10-11; Heb. 1:8). Jesus is the One through whom the Father created the world (Col. 1:16). He is God's wisdom (Col. 2:3), and the "fullness of deity dwells bodily" in him (Col. 2:9).

To the question whether the New Testament teaches that Jesus is fully God, the answer must be "yes."

Similarly, to the question whether there is one God, and yet three who are identified as God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--the answer is also "yes."

So the "development" of incarnational and Trinitarian doctrine that takes place at Nicea, Chalcedon, etc., is really simply the necessary logical unfolding of what is already clearly present in the New Testament. If Jesus is fully God, then he must "of the same substance" as God. If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God, and yet there is only one God, then God must be three persons in one nature.

Karl Barth began the contemporary revival of Trinitarian theology in his Church Dogmatics 1/1 by articulating the principle that God must be in himself who he is in his revelation. If God has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the history of revelation, then God must be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in himself. The economic Trinity necessarily implies the immanent Trinity.

In Bernard Lonergan's The Way to Nicea, he makes a similar point by distinguishing between common sense realism and critical realism. The genre of the New Testament writings is that of common sense realism. The New Testament uses the language of symbol and narrative to tell of how God relates to us in Jesus. The language of Nicea is the language of critical realism. Nicea speaks of who the Son of God must be in himself if he is going to be God for us.

Mozley speaks of this kind of development in terms of what I will call "Development 1." Development 1 adds nothing to the original content of faith, but rather brings out its necessary implications. Mozley says that Aquinas is doing precisely this kind of development in his discussion of the incarnation in the Summa Theologiae.

There is another kind of development, however, which I will call "Development 2." Development 2 is genuinely new development that is not simply the necessary articulation of what is said explicitly in the Scriptures.

Classic examples of Development 2 would include the differences between the doctrine of the theotokos and the dogmas of the immaculate conception or the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the former, Marian dogma is not actually saying something about Mary, but rather something about Christ. If Jesus Christ is truly God, and Mary is his mother, then Mary is truly the Mother of God (theotokos). She gives birth, however, to Jesus' humanity, not his eternal person, which has always existed and is generated eternally by the Father. The doctrine of the theotokos is a necessary implication of the incarnation of God in Christ, which is clearly taught in the New Testament. However, the dogmas of the immaculate conception and the assumption are not taught in Scripture, either implicitly or explicitly. They are entirely new developments.

The same would be true, of course, for the doctrine of the papacy. The New Testament says much about the role of Simon Peter as a leader of the apostles. It does not say anything explicit, however, about the bishop of Rome being the successor to Peter. The Eastern fathers, e.g., Cyprian, interpret the Petrine passages that Rome has applied to the papacy as applying to all bishops.

Other examples of Development 2 would include purgatory and indulgences.

Newman presents his argument for development as a dilemma. Anglicans (and Protestants in general) accept the dogmas of Nicea, of the Trinity, of Chalcedon, etc., but these are not taught explicitly in Scripture. They are developments. But Anglicans do not accept the doctrines of the papacy, the Marian dogmas, etc., which are also developments. Anglicans are accordingly inconsistent. To accept one development is logically to accept the others as well.

Mozley's response is that Newman conflates two quite distinct kinds of development. Development 1 adds nothing new to the content of faith. Development 2 does. Accepting Development 1 is a necessary consequence of taking seriously what the New Testament actually says. Development 2, however, adds something genuinely new to the content of faith. Nicea is an example of Development 1, not Development 2. The infallibility of the papacy is an example of Development 2, not Development 1. Accepting Development 1 does not logically entail accepting Development 2. By not distinguishing between the two kinds of development, Newman commits a logical fallacy, and his argument collapses.

I do think Mozley's critique of Newman is correct.


A Simple Explanation

I said: The way I have put it in the past is, "at first, everyone just wanted to high-tail it out of Rome. That was the first mission. Once they got going, they found out they were going in different directions." I really think that is a good way of putting it.

The response came back:
To begin with, it's not so much the Reformation that enabled such things. Rather, when the Church of Rome lost her temporal power over time, she could no longer coercive people to tow the party line. The Inquisition required backing by the state. The status quote ante represented an artificial unity, like Communist countries when most folks, including most party members, no longer believed in Marxism, but had to pay lip service to Marxism for fear of reprisal (Siberian exile, gulags) lest they voice their doubts.

Why is the development of an Osteen or Hinn or Joseph Smith supposed to be alarming? Sure, if they were living in the Middle Ages, they would be nominal Catholics. But that just goes to show that, for many, Catholicism was a default belief in the absence of any alternative, for better or worse. What kind of faith is that? To believe in something merely because it's the only thing you've ever heard of? And even then, it was only by force of law that everyone more or less went along with official dogma during the Middle Ages.

Likewise, we had false teachers infecting the NT churches, why so many NT letters are directed against false teachers. We have NT prophecies about the rise of false teachers. So how are false teachers like Osteen or Hinn or Smith an alarming development? Isn't that to be expected?
I like the simplicity of this explanation.


The Papacy that Luther Contended With

Silvestro Mazzolini, usually named Sylvester Prierias, was a member of the Roman Commission entrusted with introducing canonical proceedings against Luther in the spring of 1518. He composed the Dialogus as an expert opinion for the commission in the spring of 1518, and may have submitted it [to whom?] as early as April or May 1518. On August 7, 1518, Luther received the Dialogus together with the summons to defend himself in person at Rome on suspicion of heresy. The Dialogus, obviously, cannot be regarded as a particularly brilliant theological treatise on the papacy. (From "Martin Luther's Theology, Its Historical and Systematic Development," Bernhard Lohse, Fortress Press p. 107).
Now, here you have "a member of the Roman Commission," selected to introduce canonical proceedings against Luther. This is an "expert opinion" we are talking about. Continuing:

Still, as evidence of the view then dominant in Rome and of the aggravation it caused in Luther's dispute, it has a significance scarecely to be overestimated. Here we see how those who set the tone at Rome thought of the church and the papal office, above all what they had to find fault with in Luther.

Prierias opened with four basic propositions concerning the church that formed the basis of his debate with Luther:

(1) the entire church as to its essence (essentialiter) is the gathering of all believers in Christ for worship. The entire church ast to its power (virtualiter), however, is the Roman church, the head of all churches, and the pope. The Roman church as to its representation (repraesentative) is the college of cardinals, but as to its power (virtualiter) the pope, in a manner different, of course, from Christ. (2) As the entire church cannot err when it decides concerning faith or morals, so also a true council, when it does what it can to understand the truth, cannot err, at least not in the end result (finaliter)--and I take this to include the head [the pope]. For even a council can initially be deceived, so long as the process of searching for the truth goes on. Yes, sometimes a council has been deceived, though it has finaly recognized the truthwith the hep of the Holy Spirit. Likewise also the Roman church and the pope cannot err when he hands down a decision in his capacity as pope, that is, when he makes use of his office and does what is in his power to know the truth. (3) Whoever does not hold to the doctrine of the Roman church and to the pope as the infallible rule of faith, from which also Holy Scripture derives its power and authority, is a heretic.

In the final proposition (no. 4), the meaning of "what is customary" is identified with decisions of the church. Then this follows as a corollary: "Whoever says of indulgences that the Roman Church cannot do what it actually does, is a heretic." The four propositions are teh basis for Prierias's subsequent debate with each of Luther's Ninety-five Theses.

Prierias not only represented the view of infallibility to which some gave expression toward the close of the Middle Ages, but with his third proposition actually set the Roman church over Scripture. [He could not have done this if it were not actually believed this way, at a high and even official level.] Moreover, in the corollary he described as heretical all opposition, even opposition to the Roman practice of indulgences. The Roman standpoint in the matter of indulgences could not have been more one-sidedly and pointedly maintained.

When Luther was made aware of the Dialogus, he was convinced that the pope was the antichrist. If in the composition of the Ninety-five Theses scriptural and papal authority had merely been in tension, now they were irreconcilably opposed. Obviously, on the basis of the Dialogus, Luther arrived at the conviction that pope and councils could err. (Lohse, pgs. 107-109.)


"The Active Obedience of Christ"

Turretinfan (I know I didn't spell that the way he spells it) posted a very fine piece about the need for "the active obedience of Christ."

The proverbial "Good Samaritan" may feel warm and fuzzy after helping out his neighbour, but even the Good Samaritan is simply doing that which God commands. Thus, even the best mere man who most perfectly loves God and his neighbor can only hope to have a very small number of sins on his account: he can never hope to have anything more than debt to God.

Because of this principle, there is only one source of merit. To use a timely analogy, there is only one $700 Billion bailout plan. That one source of merit is Jesus Christ, the righteous. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law of God, thereby earning (under the covenant of works) life. Nevertheless, Jesus sacrificed that life to suffer punishment in place of sinners: punishment he did not personally deserve.

This bailout plan is not a redistribution of wealth from workers to bankers, but is instead redemption for slaves. Even the best mere man is a sinner in God's sight, deserving wrath and hell forever. Christ, by dying redeemed for himself a people out of all parts of the world.


"Speak Your Mind"

I wanted to second a thought provided by James Swan.

There is also the problem of Catholic apologetic double standards. The Catholic apologists assume Trent was following the tradition of the church, and there was no teaching of "faith alone" previous to Luther. In other words, Luther invented "justification by faith alone." It didn't exist until Luther. It can't be verified in church history. It can't be true. On the other hand, when the same historical standard is applied to certain Catholic dogmas, like Mary's Bodily Assumption, Purgatory, Indulgences, etc., this same historical standard is swept under the rug and hidden. One has to seriously question why a standard that Catholic apologists hold Protestants to is not likewise applied to their own beliefs. Wade through the corridors of church history and search for the threads of all Catholic dogma. One falls flat of linking many of them back to the early church, or in some instances, even the Bible.


A Brief History of the "Sola" Doctrines


It's important to note that the "Solas" were not doctrines in and of themselves, but they became ways of summarizing these key Reformation doctrines.


Review of "From Paul to Valentinus"

Oxford Journals
The Journal of Theological Studies 2005 56(2):655-658; doi:10.1093/jts/fli169

From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries. By PETER LAMPE.
Pp. xviii + 525. London: T. & T. Clark (a Continuum imprint), 2003. ISBN 0 567 080501. N.p

AT last the long-awaited English translation of the second edition of Die stadtrömischen Christen in den ersten beiden Jahrhunderten (WUNT 18; Tübingen, 1989) has arrived! To read reviews of the first two German editions is to be met with commendations at every turn. This review will be no exception. “From Paul to Valentinus” is a breathtaking achievement that has already become a classic and will repay careful attention for decades to come from researchers of early Roman Christianity or those seeking a model for writing a social history for other centres of ancient Christianity. It is a book that demands much from its readers. Lampe's arguments are densely formulated, punctuated by lengthy digressions, continued in footnotes; sometimes the material is presented too clumsily by seriatim listings of information weighing in favour of or against a particular argument. In this regard the study continues to reveal its origin as a doctoral dissertation (University of Bern, 1983, under the direction of Ulrich Luz). Such stylistic considerations notwithstanding, however, the scholarly world owes a debt of gratitude to Lampe for presenting so thoroughly and rigorously the primary literature, archaeological data, and epigraphic material relating to ancient Roman Christianity, as well as distilling such a vast secondary literature on ancient Roman Christianity. Lampe shrewdly and expertly argues for his reconstruction of a socially diverse, theologically variegated Roman Christianity, non-centralized until the later second century, and bearing the marks of its domestic origins amongst the urban poor even as it progressively moved through the latter part of the second century into more élite circles.

Accounting for the arrival of Christianity in Rome via Puteoli from the east (p. 10), and the separation of nascent Christianities from Judaism as a consequence of the Claudian Edict (pp. 11–16), Lampe determines that Christianity took root and expanded primarily amongst the urban poor housed in the neighbourhoods of Trastevere and the area around the Porta Capena. This he sustains by noticing correlations of evidence which point to these areas from surviving local tradition, Christian burial sites, Jewish neighbourhoods, concentrations of tituli churches, and literary references to Christian businesses (pp. 19–66). Alongside these poor were also marginally higher-status people inhabiting the poorer areas of the Aventine valley and Mars Field. These topographical conclusions are then fleshed out more fully by reference to literary and archaeological evidence, the latter with reference to modifications of the tomb of St Peter and the fact that Christians were evidently not in a position financially to assure the grave would not be affected by pagan renovations surrounding it. Again the picture is predominantly one of the urban poor. That there was a degree of social stratification is attested by the dispute over right use of riches in The Shepherd of Hermas and evidence of higher-status Christians entering the community at the of the second century, with women Christians playing especially important roles of patronage (pp. 67–150). This conclusion is further supported by close analysis of prosopographical evidence contained in New Testament references and second-century literature (pp. 151–355). Especially significant is that prosopographical evidence shows a disproportionate number of names of Greek origin—representative of the disenfranchised immigrant population from which Christianity won the majority of its adeherents. As one progresses through the second into the third century increasingly higher-status profiles emerge, especially female ones, so that just at the time more philosophical (Justin) and esoteric (Valentinus) versions of Christianity appear we find evidence of Christians drawn from more élite circles. Particularly informative, though rather more hypothetical than Lampe seems prepared to admit, is the discussion of arguably Valentinian burial inscriptions discovered along the Via Latina, amidst the ruins of a Hadrianic period villa. 'This inscription probably hung in the suburban villa of a wealthy Valentinian man or woman', Lampe hastens to conclude (p. 310), making a rather enduring spring from a singular swallow. Still, this reconstruction, if the argument tends towards the circular, accords with the attraction of probably higher-status educated women sympathetic to Valentinian theology, like Flora (p. 296). Marcion similarly reflects a growth of Christianity amongst the wealthier. The argument, however, that capricious emperors demanding service for their military machines from imperial shipowners like Marcion, especially to battle against the Jewish uprising at the time of Trajan, furnish the imperial social context for the generation of Marcion's ideas of a warlike demiurge demanding obedience (pp. 246–9), while intriguing, seems rather too speculative if not reductive.

The picture that finally emerges from Lampe's analysis of surviving evidence is one he names 'the fractionation of Roman Christianity' (pp. 357–408). Not until the second half of the second century, under Anicetus, do we find compelling evidence for a monarchical episcopacy, and when it emerges, it is to manage relief shipments to dispersed Christians as well as social aid for the Roman poor (pp. 403–4). Before this period Roman Christians were 'fractionated' amongst dispersed house/tenement churches, each presided over by its own presbyter–bishop. This accounts for the evidence of social and theological diversity in second-century Roman Christianity, evidence of a degree of tolerance of theologically disparate groups without a single authority to regulate belief and practice, and the relatively late appearance of unambiguous representation of a single bishop over Rome. In reconstructing that picture of a series of domestic Christianities developing into a monarchical episcopacy Lampe problematically looks for support from the evidence of Traditio apostolica as testimony to mid-second century Roman Christianity under Hippolytus. The Roman provenance of this document, the dating of the multiple strands of tradition the document represents, even the identity of the Hippolytus with which the text is associated are topics of lively debate which Lampe completely ignores. He assumes what requires careful argumentation, and it is surely an exaggeration to write (p. 127, n. 1), 'Today this writing [Traditio apostolica] is, for the most part, acknowledged as original'. Nevertheless, he offers a compelling account of the development of a centralized and hierarchical authority-structure developing out of the social situation of a Roman church seeking to aid urban poor who from its earliest days comprised the majority of its members. This account of Roman fractionation attests to the versality and thoughtfulness of Lampe's social-historical reconstructions. He resists preserving the development of theology and spirituality free from societal considerations; on the other hand, he refuses to reduce them to epiphenomena of sociological conditions. Rather he insists upon a reciprocal interplay of the theological and the sociological and seeks models of communal formation that insist upon a dynamic dialectical formation. This is ably demonstrated, for example, in his account of Hermas offering through the forgiveness of post-baptismal sin and the limiting of wealthy Christians to one business a means of reintegrating higher-status Christians into the church and offering their wealth as a means of community-building, as opposed to a rigorist balkanization of rich and poor by refusing a second repentance. Here, the argument would have been strengthened had Lampe engaged the analysis of Carolyn Osiek (The Shepherd of Hermas [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999]), a regrettable absence from an otherwise thorough bibliography (pp. 437–74). Since this work is so encyclopedic and detailed in its engagement with secondary studies, it is disappointing that there is no author index, especially because it will be the standard reference work on ancient Roman Christianity for the foreseeable future.

H. O. Maier
Vancouver, British Columbia


"Steady As You Go"

There is a new article up at the Reformation 21 site, "Steady As You Go," by Alistair Begg. It is his commencement address from May 2008, and his advice to these graduates is, "be prepared for the long haul." A couple of quotes, and a couple of comments (from within my self-imposed confinement of dealing with Roman Catholic issues here):
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
A question now. How much of current Marian teaching is myth?
I have for you one word of exhortation: "Steady as You Go". You will see that this emerges from 2 Timothy 4:5. Paul exhorts Timothy to keep his head or to be steadfast. Paul issues a charge to his young lieutenant in the faith. He doesn't present him with an idea, nor a proposition, nor a suggestion; but he issues a charge. He issues a solemn and significant directive. What he is about to say to him is a matter of absolute necessity; a matter of pressing urgency. He makes his appeal, not on the strength of his apostleship, nor on the length of his service, now coming to an end; nor on account of the fact that he was Timothy's father in the faith. Instead he offers this charge in light of the fact of his passing. "I'm already be poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. The word Paul employs is the same as is used to describe oxen unyoked at the end of the day, like one who weighs anchor and heads for the final destination. Or an individual striking tent and heading home. In view of my passing, Timothy, I want you to do this." In view also of God's presence. It is in the presence of God that he issues this charge.
Here is a living example of "Apostolic Succession." Does Paul say, "keep the chain going"? No, he focuses on something called "the Word."
Let us ask five simple questions. The first question is: 1. What is God's servant to do? What is it that he's to do? He is to preach the Word. He is to proclaim the Gospel. That was the compulsion of Paul and that is the commission of Timothy. You remember Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel." Now we may say to ourselves, well, we can move on very quickly from this, because after all we all know what the Gospel is. It's the Euangelion. It's the Good News. But not so quickly! To proclaim the Gospel means explaining what God has done in Christ on behalf of sinners. Making clear that Christ's obedience is reckoned to the sinner on the ground that the penalty of the sinner's disobedience has been borne in Christ - He died the Righteous for the unrighteous. It is only (as Goldsworthy reminds us) when we have made the Gospel plain that we can then go on to explain the benefits of receiving the Gospel and announce the perils of rejecting the Gospel. If you are to be Gospel men and women, whether in a pulpit or in a counseling context, it is the Gospel that we must affirm. Telling people about the sovereignty of God is not the Gospel. Pressing on people the nature of the new birth and the necessity of regeneration is not preaching the Gospel. Both of these things are related to it; both are involved in it, but they are not the essential message of salvation that needs to be believed. There is a great challenge in this in these days of which you must be aware as you prepare to go. Consider this quote from The Doctrine of the Atonement by Smeaton, (a good Scottish theologian of an earlier era). "To convert one sinner from his way is an event of greater importance than the deliverance of an entire kingdom from temporal evil." Are you convinced of this?
I am convinced, and have been convinced for a long time, that it has been my mission in life to stand and block in the face of those who would seek to move toward Catholicism; to point out the ways in which that institution falls short of "preaching the Gospel." In truth, that institution says a lot of things, most of which are not "the Gospel."


The Ongoing Reformation

In the last few days, I have spent quite a bit of time, responding to a certain group of Catholic claims, beginning here in response to this , and following up here and here and in some of the more recent posts. I have also begun interacting with the initial Bryan Cross post here.

I'm not sure how all that got started, I think someone saw the Robert Godfrey photo, (either Mike Brown or Jason Stellman), and they decided to check it out further, possibly out of some loyalty to the Westminster Seminary in California.

Mike Brown mentioned, in a private email, that he was continuing to address Bryan Cross on his blog, "if you guys aren't yet burnt out on this topic." What follows is pretty much my response to him.

I have spent my whole life wrestling with this topic, and trying to understand it.
Not only am I not burned out, but I am honored that individuals with the qualifications and background that Mike and Jason bring, have decided to take a look at this struggle. On another discussion board, A Southern Baptist -turned-Lutheran, who recently completed a PhD, told me, in effect, "John Bugay, can't you lighten up?" I said, "I want to make this my life's work." He said, "then your life's work will be a waste." I did not believe him for a moment -- that kind of criticism flows off, like water off a duck's back -- but that is the kind of response I get, for having the kind of zeal that I have on this topic.

The Catholic Church (and, if I may say, "Catholicism") is like a water balloon, or worse, like that "ooze" that kids used to play with -- squeeze it in one place, and it oozes out somewhere else. Or, it is like an octopus, with many tentacles flailing around. Many hands are required just to get a handle on it.

I don't know if anyone will follow through all of the discussions in the comments threads. I believe I have addressed every claim some of the Catholics there have made on behalf of Rome. When I would answer one thing, their response would be, "oh yeah, but what about this?" We have gone around and around on dozens of topics.

In this regard, the Internet has been like a big candy store for me (followed closely by Amazon.com's used book sales.) Over the years, I have seen virtually all of the "oh yeah, what about this" moments that Catholics typically bring out, and I have looked them all squarely in the face. And I have been able to look into them, deeply, historically, and honestly, and respond, honestly, and I have completely satisfied myself in the face of Roman authority, and in the face of the Roman curse (CCC 846), that neither I nor my family are in any danger from that curse. That was a long process.

The Roman Catholic Church is something with tentacles that burrow themselves deep into your life, at every point -- baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage, (and then they have you repeat the same for your kids), and last rites. It wants everything and it wants to consume.

I do see the papacy backing off. I've mentioned that down below, and I'll bring it up again. And as Jesus said, "strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep." There aren't enough nails for this coffin, for my liking.

My opinion is that Protestants (especially Reformed Protestants) need to continue to press the Reformation. That's the rationale behind this blog, and the "Reformation 500" site and URL. I do see Reformed churches as providing the true shelter where these "lost Catholics," or maybe I should say, "saved Catholics" can run.


"By the Pure Grace of God Alone"

From Benjamin Warfield, "The Theology of the Reformation"
What happened at the Reformation, by means of which the forces of life were set at work through the seething, struggling mass, was the revival of vital Christianity; and this is the vera causa of all that has come out of that great revolution, in all departments of life. Men, no doubt, had long been longing and seeking after "a return of Christianity to something like primitive purity and simplicity." This was the way that an Erasmus, for example, pictured to himself the needs of his time. The difficulty was that, rather repelled by the Christianity they knew than attracted by Christianity in its primitive purity - of the true nature of which they really had no idea - they were simply feeling out in the dark. What Luther did was to rediscover vital Christianity and to give it afresh to the world. To do this was to put the spark to the train. We are feeling the explosion yet.

The Reformation was then - we insist upon it - precisely the substitution of one set of theological doctrines for another. That is what it was to Luther; and that is what, through Luther, it has been to the Christian world. Exactly what Luther did was for himself - for the quieting of his aroused conscience and the healing of his deepened sense of sin - to rediscover the great fact, the greatest of all the great facts of which sinful man can ever become aware, that salvation is by the pure grace of God alone.


Burying their heads in the sand

Here's an email that I sent to some of the bloggers whose blogs I link to:

Gentlemen: On the occasion of Pope Benedict's trip to the US, here is a news story that shines the light on a fine example of a "head-in-the-sand" practice with regard to "church discipline":
In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, an encyclical whose provisions included a requirement that theologians teaching at Catholic schools receive a stamp of approval from the church (a "mandatum"), and that the campus environment should be supportive of a Catholic way of life.

Father Jenkins calls Ex Corde a "superb document" that he has read "many times." But most Catholic college leaders, including Father Jenkins, have not implemented it to the extent that they or others expected they would have to. The mandatum provision, for instance, was met at the time with outrage by college faculty and administrators, who found it to be an infringement on academic freedom. But since then, Father Jenkins explains, "positions softened a bit on that. Misunderstandings were eliminated."

The way the mandatum controversy was resolved is this: Local bishops give their approval to some theologians and not others. But no one besides the bishop and the theologian knows who has it. So Father Jenkins can claim total ignorance about which members of his own theology department are approved by the church.

Compared with this, I thought that the way Westminster handled the Enns issue was a model of integrity.

But this is the way that Catholicism has always handled (buried) its uncomfortable issues. Here is a line that I found telling, from A.G. Dickens's "The Counter Reformation": "The immediate effects of the Consilium fell far below the hopes of its authors and its very frankness hampered its public use. In the autumn of 1538 Contarini adjured the pope to face the loss of some twenty or thirty thousand ducats entailed by a full reform of the Dataria, the office where dispensations and appointments to benefices were issued. Yet a few days later, when Vittoria Colonna asked (Pope) Paul (III) why nothing was happening, he merely shrugged his shoulders. Intelligibly enough, he shrank from this upheaval and loss, satisfying himself with minor changes which left curial procedures and incomes substantially unaltered. One may nevertheless sense a real change of atmosphere in Rome during these years. In December 1540 the pope found no less than eighty absentee bishops living in Rome and he personally ordered them to return to their duties. Moreover, the more noticeably pious prelates had no longer to tolerate the open cynicism of the Medicean period, and when moral lapses by clerics came to light, pains were now taken to hush them up as matters of grievous scandal." (pg 102)

So, during the Reformation, Rome conceded that it would no longer openly tolerate scandals, but "hush them up." That standard policy enabled the sexually abusive clergy to prosper as they did in the last century, and it seems as if it will continue to permit the eating-away of any conservative Catholicism left in "Catholic" educational institutions.

To my larger point: you Westminster guys are the possessors of pure Christian Gold, (the true Gospel, right practice -- or something close to it -- the right way of understanding historical Christianity), and as the stewards of such, you must use it to engage the Catholic Church. I know, the American evangelical church provides a target-rich environment for your salvos, but for as doctrinally mutant as the Catholic Church is, you will (as someone named Sean has mentioned at the Outhouse) find intelligent people who will understand your cultural message.

But that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is, the Reformation continues to this day. It must because the doctrines which it first protested are still "out there" and in-force, continuing to bury whatever was Christian in the early Catholic Church. The Reformation was the one hope for the church in that day (and it was rejected), and the Reformation is still the only hope for the church in our day. (I agree with Charles Hodge's assessment that true Christianity existed somewhere within the Catholic Church, buried alive, as it were, but it is still there.)


The false authority of the papacy

Who among us would settle for a doctor who really wasn’t a doctor, or a lawyer whose credentials were a sham? These types of individuals could do great harm to us. Yet the papacy grew into its own “authority” on the strength of a document that was a clear forgery. A doctor with a forged diploma would and should be prosecuted as a quack, but when a document foundational to the authority of the papacy was proven to be a forgery, the popes nevertheless pressed the case for their own “authority,” and people to this day continue to believe in papal authority.

The Catholic Church is clear now that the papacy “developed” over time. As I’ve written below, even Catholic historians have pretty much shattered the view that Peter was the first pope, that he “passed the mantle” onto the next pope, who passed it on to the next pope, and so on. (In spite of this historical research, contemporary Catholic leaders such as Bishop Donald Wuerl can write about “Pope St. Clement” with a straight face.)
Historical authenticity gained a new importance: it now became the chief criterion for authority [in the period just prior to the Reformation]. In earlier centuries, monks cheerfully forged documents on a huge scale for the greater glory of God, particularly charters proving their monastery’s claim to lands and privileges. They lived in a world where there were too few documents, and so they needed to manufacture the authority to prove things which they knew in their hearts to be true. That attitude would no longer do. A ‘source’ for authority, or fons, now outweighed the unchallenged reputation of an auctoritas. Ad fonts, back to the sources, was the battle-cry of the humanists, and Protestants would take it over from them. Hence the relevance of our earlier definition of a humanist as a textual editor: an individual, equipped with the right intellectual skills, could outface centuries of authority, even the greatest authority in medieval Europe, the Church.

A particularly notorious example of a revered text demolished by fifteenth-century scholarship was an eighth-century forgery claiming to be a grant by the fourth-century convert Emperor Constantine I, giving the Pope sweeping powers throughout the Christian world. It is significant that three different scholars working independently – the future German Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa in 1432-3, the Italian Lorenzo Valla in 1440, and the English bishop Reginald Pecock in 1450 – all came to the conclusion that the style of this ‘Donation of Constantine’ was radically wrong for the fourth century; instantly they demolished a prop of papal authority. (©2003, Dairmaid MacCulloch, “The Reformation: A History,” pgs 81-82.)


Protestants and the Pope

This article by Dr. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary, California, and Professor of Church History there, was published on the occasion of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XIV. It is a few years old, but it has an ongoing kind of relevance because what was "unexplored and unchallenged" at the time has remained publicly unexplored and unchallenged.

Dr. Godfrey wrote this:
...in America—with many more Protestants than Roman Catholics—one might have expected some media exploration of why Protestants do not acknowledge the pope as the head of the church. The repeated claims that the pope is the successor of Peter and that the papacy is a 2000 year old institution went unexplored and unchallenged.

This Protestant silence says much about the state of Protestantism today....
Of course, with a name like "Reformation500," my hope in the coming weeks and months and years, is both to explore and challenge the papacy in ways that we haven't seen for a while. Dr. Godfrey's conclusion at this point is a good call to action:
If many Protestants today are not persuaded that the pope is the Antichrist, what should we say of him? Has the theology of the Roman Catholic Church about the pope and about the Gospel changed? The Roman Catholic Church has changed some of its claims about being the only institution in which one can find salvation. It is willing to call Protestants in some sense separated brothers. There does seem to be more toleration and less commitment to coercion on the part of the bishop of Rome. We should be glad for these changes.

Still the basic teaching about the authority of the pope has not changed and the teaching about the Gospel also has not changed. The Roman Catholic Church still anathematizes the Protestant and biblical doctrine of justification.

The most important criterion by which any minister must be evaluated is this: did he preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As Paul taught clearly: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). By that standard we must conclude that Pope John Paul II was no more a success than his predecessors since the time of the Reformation. Let us pray that Pope Benedict XVI, a very learned man, may come to see the truth as it is in Christ and teach it faithfully.


Peace with God

James White is running a video series on his blog, "Theology Matters".

Theology matters in our lives, because our theology determines our attitudes about God, which in turn, shapes our behaviors. If we have a "right theology," we can understand our relationship with God, our place in the universe, and use that as a foundational basis for living our lives. If we have a "wrong theology," (and having spent a large portion of my life Roman Catholic, I understand this), there is not an unconditional peace with God; this peace, if it comes, is dependent on our own behaviors. Have I been to confession? Did I miss Mass? It is easy for a nagging guilt to build, if you aren't "spot-on" with doing the right things.

In reality, we have this peace with God, true and restful peace with God, not through anything we have done, nor through anything we have to do to obtain it. It is a pure gift from God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


"Infusion of Grace"? Or Imputation?

Catholic theology teaches that Adam was in some kind of “state of grace” before the fall. This grace was some kind of “stuff” that God applied that made Adam really special.
The notion of infused grace is part of a wider ontology that is applied to the original created state. Augustine had maintained that Adam was upheld in righteousness by an enabling grace that was added to an ontologically unstable nature. The fall occurred with the withdrawal of this donum superadditum and the consequent shift of vision from the invisible and intellectual to the visible and corporeal. Following Augustine, the early medieval scholastics distinguished between an operative grace (liberating the will from its bondage) that always precedes human effort and a cooperative grace that assists human effort. Following Aquinas, the Council of Trent decreed that through prevenient grace God prepares the soul, while it is “through his stimulating and assisting grace [that individuals] are disposed to convert themselves to their own justification” (from Trent session vi, Chapter 5) -- [Horton's original erroneously attributes "canon" 5]. It is worth noting Wilhelm Pauck’s observation that the verb ekkechutai in Romans 5:5 (“the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” – from the KJV) was rendered diffusa est in (was diffused) by the Vulgate, and this became a key basis for the doctrine of infused habits. (Horton pg. 191)
(Incidentally, this is another mistranslation in the Vulgate that got written into Catholic Dogma. This one, however, had some effect on history).

Horton doesn’t satisfy himself with this particular citation, however. He traces this very thoroughly, along with the consequences of this doctrine.

In Horton's Covenant theology, man, created God's Image, has all of the "ontology" he needs. The sin was a legal breakage of the covenant – a “forensic” fall, as it were:
According to federal (covenant) theologians, Adam and Eve were never in a state of grace before the fall. Endowed in their creation with all of the requisite gifts necessary for fulfilling God’s eschatological purposes, there was nothing lacking requiring a gracious supplement.

This reveals a fundamentally different understanding not only of the original condition of humanity in Adam (under a covenant of works), but of grace itself. After all, “the image of God is not a superadded gift but integral to the essence of humanity,” as Bavinck observes… “From this it follows that in Reformation theology, grace cannot in any respect bear the character of a substance.

If grace is a spiritual substance infused into a person in order to perfect nature, rather than divine favor shown to those who are at fault, we have a perfect example of the contrast between ontological-metaphysical and ethical-covenanted construals of the problem. (pg. 194)
In contrast, Bavinck says, “the Reformation rejected this neoplatonic mysticism, returned to the simplicity of Holy Scripture, and consequently gained a very different concept of grace… Grace serves, not to take up humans into a supernatural order, but to free them from sin. Grace is opposed not to nature, only to sin. In its real sense, it was not necessary in the case of Adam before the fall but has only become necessary as a result of sin…The “physical” opposition between the natural and the supernatural yields to the ethical opposition between sin and grace.” In other words, grace does not elevate nature, but liberates it from its bondage to sin and death.

To be sure, Horton follows many other paths here, filling out this line of thinking. Several pages later, Horton continues:
Recognizing this danger (medieval ontology), Protestant orthodoxy walled off justification from any inward change, but then (with varying degrees of success) continued to appeal to traditional medieval categories for [to describe] regeneration and sanctification.

Although I affirm everything that they were after in the formulation, I am arguing that justification should be seen more clearly not merely as ontologically different from inner renewal, but also as the ontological source of that change (regeneration in both its narrower and broader senses). In that case, we need not reformulate a doctrine of regeneration as immediate and direct or even as subconscious and nontransformative, but treat justification as an illocutionary speech-act (verbum externum) that, when identified with the Spirit’s perlocutionary act of effectual calling, issues in repentance and faith. Developing this particular argument will be a central aim of the next chapter.

For Calvin, not only is justification entirely forensic; union with Christ is also regarded as first of all forensic and only consequently transformative.(198)
Unlike a human judge who can only call them as he sees them, God’s declaration [the double imputation of forgiveness for man’s sin and Christ’s righteousness back to man] … “creates the reality it declares.” “God’s declaration, in other words, is itself constitutive of that which is declared.

Once more we see the superiority of communicative and covenantal over purely causal and metaphysical grammars…. No less than God pronounced “Let there be…!” when there was nothing, Abram, the “father of many” while he was childless, Sarah fruitful while she was barren, a young woman pregnant while she was a virgin, God pronounces believers to be righteous while they are unrighteous. Thus, the entire reality of the new creation – not only justification but also renewal, and not only the renewal of the individual but also of the cosmos – is constituted by the covenantal speech of the Trinity. (201)
Of course, there is a lot more detail about this, but these are the basic outlines of Horton’s argument.


"Covenant and Salvation" - a Review

This is one of the most aware and hopeful accounts of Reformation Theology that the reader will ever see. It is incredibly relevant to the current world of theology. Horton begins with the presupposition not only that “the Reformation tradition” contains a huge amount of “unexploited potential” for engaging this current world, but that this potential is found within the framework of Covenant Theology.

Horton traces the two covenants, “the covenant of Law,” given to (and broken by) both Adam and Israel, and the “covenant of Promise,” given to Noah, Abraham, David, and ultimately fulfilled in Christ. He distinguishes these two covenants, based on research done not only by Reformed biblical scholarship, but also “from Jewish and Roman Catholic traditions” (including the work of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) that has found two ancient kinds of covenants: a “suzerainty” treat, often given from a stronger king to a weaker king in the form, “do this and you will live,” and a covenant of Promise, given in the form of “a royal grant,” which took the form of “an outright gift of a king to a subject.”

“The covenant at Sinai certainly bears the marks of a suzerainty treaty. In fact, the exact form is followed in Exodus 19 and 20 as well as in Deuteronomy 5: Yahweh identifies himself as the suzerain (preamble), with a brief historical prologue citing his deliverance of the people from Egypt, followed by the Ten Commandments (stipulations), with clear warnings (sanctions) about violating the treaty to which they have sworn their allegiance.” (pg 13.)

The covenant with Noah, Abraham and David is given in “a completely different form,” a “one-sided promise on God’s part with no conditions attached (see Genesis 9). “The point is this: the deepest distinction in Scripture is not between the Old and New Testaments, but between the covenants of law and the covenants of promise that run through both” (pg 17, emphasis in original).

From this point, Horton engages all of the many theologies that are being presented today, beginning with the “New Perspective on Paul,” (the “covenant nomism” of which takes into account the covenant of Law, but not the covenant of Promise,” but along the way, he engages not only Sanders, Dunn and Wright, but also Rahner and Von Balthasar, Barth and Hunsigner, Milbank and Ward, Tillich, Moltmann, and a host of others. Along the way, Horton brings home with power and dignity the genius of the Reformers, and he shows how the genius of the Reformers is not only relevant in today’s thought climate, but ideal.

This is a thoughtful, erudite, and masterful work.


Whose version of the Bible is right?

Catholic Bibles have 72 books as all good school children learned in my day. The Protestant Bibles have 66. Who's right? And who should we believe about who's right?

Consider this short snippet (it's about 6 minutes long, with a little bit of audio, and mostly some pretty music):

Clark's Review of "A Secular Faith"

"A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State" by D.G. Hart -- a Review by R. Scott Clark

Evangelical involvement in politics has perhaps never been more intense. The Bush administration speaks of integrating faith and politics and has an office of faith-based initiatives. The national media cover the scandals of evangelical leaders because those evangelicals have political clout. Indeed, most Christians on the right and left seem to agree that there is such a thing as distinctly Christian politics. Into this super-heated environment comes a book by Darryl Hart challenging the assumptions that fuel the social programs of both conservative and liberal Christians.

Hart's argument with both groups is that "Christianity in its classic formulations, especially the Protestant traditions of Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican, has very little to say about politics or the ordering of society" (10). "Christian-inspired policy arguments" or candidates are inappropriate "on Christian grounds" because "using Christianity for political ends fundamentally misconstrues the Christian religion" (253).

Through nine chapters, Hart interacts with a substantial body of literature attempting to account for the relations between Christ and Caesar. He argues that, when pressed into the service of Caesar, Christianity is always denatured and cheapened, because, the "trick of successfully employing any faith for public ends is to have access to the socially useful parts of religion while leaving behind its dogmatic and sectarian baggage" (13). For Hart, there is no such thing as "Christian" politics. For readers familiar with Hart's earlier work, this view should come as no surprise as it is part of his broader advocacy of the renewal and reapplication of the Reformation theory of the two kingdoms, that is, the notion that Christ is sovereign over all things but he administers his sovereignty in two distinct kingdoms: civil and ecclesiastical. Thus, nonecclesiastical vocations are common to believers and unbelievers and much of this common work must be conducted according to creational categories (nature) and existing cultural norms rather than redemptive categories (grace). In other words, there is no distinctly Christian way to drive a bus or set monetary policy. Bus drivers, historians, and politicians do common work according to nature. Hart, with a few other writers (such as David VanDrunen and Michael Horton), seeks to employ the two kingdoms theory in the late modern world as a bulwark against evangelical and liberal theocratic tendencies. According to Hart, both the evangelical right and the mainline left are theocratic. Walter Rauschenbusch's "social gospel" has become the playbook for ostensibly conservative evangelicals (105-123). Both the Christian left and right routinely misappropriate and misapply passages from the Old Testament-passages intended to speak to the Israelite theocracy and to the church-as if they were intended to serve as a blueprint for post-canonical social policy.

How are Christians to negotiate their civic lives? Hart's answer is that we must embrace an "awkward neutrality" (229-230), that we must be prepared to live "hyphenated lives." With "legal secularists," Hart argues that for Christian secularists, "the work of government lacks any overtly religious or spiritual purpose" (15). Its work is common to believer and unbeliever. In an age when the "integration" of faith and life is the standing order, it is bracing, even shocking to see one arguing that Christians should "bracket" their faith (175-177, 253, 257) from their civic lives.

He takes issue with the notion on which much Christian political involvement has been premised, , American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States is a "shining city on a hill" (19-45). Only the visible church could be that city in this world. Thus, he criticizes the colonial Puritans, mainline Christians, and evangelicals for consistently applying theocratic categories to the civil rather than to the ecclesiastical kingdom.

Following George Marsden's account of the influence of the "Whig cultural ideal" (54), Hart observes that Christians have regularly confused democratic republicanism with Christianity and vice versa, conflating Christian liberty with political liberty (66). He argues that the legal secularism of Isaac Kranmick and R. Laurence Moore is closer to the intent of the Westminster Divines than is modern Christian republicanism (69-71). He chronicles the consequences of this ideology for American Christianity by surveying the rise of the "common" (public) school. In order for such an institution to foster a generic civic religion, the common schools that arose in the 19th century had to promulgate a sub-Christian faith (89).

Drawing upon Nathan Hatch's analysis of the democratization of American Christianity, Hart also contends that much of what is done in the name of advancing the "kingdom of God" is really the product of Jacksonian, egalitarianism (124-152), and attempts to preserve the Protestant hegemony, on the flawed assumption that the Protestant churches are the seminary of democracy (145, 150-152).

One of the most interesting chapters is his survey of the changes in religious identity in America from Al Smith's defeat to today. John Kennedy had to assure evangelicals that he would not allow his Romanism to influence his policies and today evangelicals seem to insist that Roman politicians obey the Pope in their civil lives. In this chapter, Hart engages in his most detailed biblically based argument (170-174) for the two-kingdoms reading of Scripture.

Rejecting the dominant two-party reading of American religious history, that is, that there are two kinds of Christians ("conservative" and "liberal"), Hart argues that the conservatives of the National Association of Evangelicals are not really different from liberals of the National Council of Churches (chapter 7). Rather, genuine religious faith is bound not to produce a religious unity, as the Christian-republicans (right and left) imagine, but division. True religious conviction is inherently confessional and sectarian (206).

Like everything that Hart writes, this work is provocative in the best sense. As a Reformed confessionalist, I find his argument theologically compelling. The Israelite theocracy was unique and fulfilled by Christ. Christ and his apostles established an institution with only spiritual authority and commanded Christians to live peaceably and patiently in a hostile culture. Implicitly or explicitly, however, under the influence of pre- or post-millenarian eschatology (anticipating some earthly golden age) Christians have spent much of modernity trying to resuscitate Christendom by employing implicitly or explicitly theocratic arguments. Even if one disagrees with Hart's theology, anyone willing to reconsider the prevailing theology of cultural engagement will find a vigorous discussion partner here.

My agreement notwithstanding, Hart's rhetoric and historical analysis raise questions for further discussion. According to Hart, the adjective "public" refers to civic activities and the adjective "private" refers to sectarian ecclesiastical religious activities. [Certainly he is entitled to his definitions, and used to mean "not civic," Christian practice must be described as private. Yet some will wonder whether "private" is the best adjective to describe Christian theology and practice.] It's true that certain acts of piety are to be private (176) in the sense of "hidden from view" (Matt. 6:4), but the empty tomb was available for everyone to see, as was Christ's resurrected body and as is Christian worship.

Historians may balk at a few characterizations of seventeenth-century British politics and the political intentions of the Westminster Assembly (e.g., 64, 70). For example, though Hart concedes that the two kingdoms doctrine emerged under Christendom (i.e., a state-church, the civil enforcement of the first table of the Decalogue), his account of Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 20 makes no mention of the original version of Article 23, which calls for the magistrate to keep "unity and peace" in the church and to keep pure "the Truth of God" and to suppress "all blasphemies and heresies" (23.3).

Similarly, his claim that the Reformation marginalized the institutional church (244) is partly true, but a little misleading. He refers in passing to the consequence of desacralization of the world by the Reformation. Where the medieval church had grace "perfecting" nature, the Reformation restored nature and grace to their rightful places. For Protestants, grace renews nature. Did that make the church less or more important in the lives of believers?

One might also be puzzled by the relative absence of Calvin's theory of the two kingdoms in a book by a confessional Presbyterian. He spends several pages on Augustine's two cities and on Luther's theory of the two kingdoms but little on Calvin's theory of the two kingdoms, giving perhaps unintentionally the impression that his view is more Augustinian and Lutheran than Calvinist.

Finally, Hart's argument makes one eager for further elaboration of a positive basis on which Christians can make civil decisions. After all, through the ballot initiative and referendum process now commonplace, the average citizen is engaged in making policy on a level that pre-Enlightenment Christians could hardly imagine. Discussion of the historic Protestant doctrine of natural law will be most welcome. This is a valuable book deserving of careful attention from readers across the religious and theological continuum.
Modern Reformation magazine, March/April Vol. 16 No. 2 2007 Pages 49-51

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Triablogue: Theology at sea

Triablogue: Theology at sea or, "How the Catholic Church's Foundations are Crumbling."

How the internet can break an impenetrable edifice

It turns out that even the Mafia is being "transformed" by the internet.
PALERMO, Sicily (Jan. 13) - When it came down to business, Cosa Nostra could always count on fear. No more. In a rebellion shaking the Sicilian Mafia to its centuries-old roots, businesses are joining forces in refusing to submit to demands for protection money called "pizzo."

And they're getting away with it, threatening to sap an already weakened crime syndicate of one of its steadiest sources of revenue. The Mafia has a history of bouncing back from defeat, but this time it is up against something entirely new: a Web site where businessmen are finding safety in numbers to say no to the mob.

At the same time, businessmen ranging from neighborhood shopkeepers to industrialists are being emboldened by arrests of fugitive bosses, and the discovery in raids of meticulous Mafia bookkeeping on who paid the "pizzo" and how much.

"This rebellion goes to the heart of the Mafia," said Palermo prosecutor Maurizio De Lucia, who has investigated extortion cases for years. "If it works, we will have a great advantage in the fight against the Mafia."

These latest gains build on other successes in the fight to break Cosa Nostra's stranglehold on Sicily. In the last two decades, the syndicate has been battered by testimony from turncoats, who helped send hundreds of mobsters to prison in the late 1980s, and a fierce state crackdown a decade later after bombs killed two Palermo anti-Mafia prosecutors.

The number of rebels on the Web site is still tiny compared to Palermo's businesses overall, but their movement has helped to chip away at the Mafia's psychological hold on Sicilians - long conditioned to believe that defiance would bring ruin or a death sentence. And any consistent crumbling of that culture of fear could ultimately lead to Cosa Nostra's undoing.
The concept is different, but I think that the fear which held much of Catholicism in place -- the mystique of their authority -- is likewise being dissipated by people who are no longer dependent largely on their parish priests to get a handle on what their Church really teaches.

That's because so much of Catholic "authority" -- especially the papacy -- has been "built on sand." The internet -- representing a flood of information, including a way of disseminating more accurate information about the papacy's history -- is going to erode away the foundations of that house built on sand.


Why the Reformation will Succeed Today

As I read the history of the Reformation, little by little, it occurs to me that the ideas and ideals of the Reformation will be more relevant and more successful in our time than in the time when they were first espoused. Today's Protestant churches seem to be wandering in a lot of different directions. The Reformation will enable Protestants, by the mere discussion of its ideals, to be able to re-focus on what is really important in their heritage.

As well, today's Catholic Church is seeking desperately to keep its hold on "the Faithful," but the things which are distinctively Catholic (as opposed to what is genuinely Christian in that religion) will be seen to be more and more bankrupt as more people begin to understand what the Reformation was all about.

Why do I say that? Because in the 16th century, even though ideas could spread via printing and the printing press, there was a mighty and unjust response from the "Catholic Reformation," which I've written about elsewhere, which included such things as repression and persecution and even "wars of religion." Such things are not likely to happen today. The main "religious" responses to the Protestant Reformers came in the form of the Jesuits and their casuistry, (and a blind devotion to the papacy that mandated "the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it." In today's internet-connected world, people today are more bound to require to "be convinced by Scripture and reason," and thus, Catholicism will be forced to defend its ideas on their own strength, not with a sword.

And the Catholic response to the Reformation was the Council of Trent,
which declared its mind, after much heart-searching, on the matter of justification: a decree of sixteen chapters with thirty-three canons attached. Canon Nine reads: "If anyone saith that by faith alone the impious is justified ... let him be anathema." It was entirely due to Luther that Catholicism was now defined in relation to that Doctrine! (Patrick Collinson, "The Reformation: A History," pg 113)