Friday, November 30, 2007

Martin Luther's Reactions to the Deaths of Zwingli, St. Thomas More, and St. John Fisher

By Dave Armstrong (11-30-07)


The heroic, inspiring stories of St. Thomas More (1478-1535) and St. John Fisher (1469-1535; the only bishop in England who resisted Henry VIII's tyranny and butcheries) are well known, so I won't recount them here. Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) was Luther's fellow Protestant "reformer", who differed from him especially on the question of the nature of the Eucharist; holding to mere symbolism, whereas Luther accepted the Real (Substantial) Presence.

Protestant historian Philip Schaff has written about Luther's hostility towards Zwingli:
His disgust with the radicalism and fanaticism of Carlstadt and Münzer, his increasing bodily infirmities, and his dissatisfaction with affairs in Wittenberg (which he threatened to leave permanently in 1544), cast a cloud over his declining years. He had so strongly committed himself, and was so firm in his convictions, that he was averse to all further changes and to all compromises. He was equally hostile to the Pope, whom he hated as the very antichrist, and to Zwingli, whom he regarded as little better than an infidel.

The deepest ground of Luther's aversion to Zwingli must be sought in his mysticism and veneration for what he conceived to be the unbroken faith of the Church. He strikingly expressed this in his letter to Duke Albrecht of Prussia (which might easily be turned into a powerful argument against the Reformation itself). He went so far as to call Zwingli a non-Christian (Unchrist), and ten times worse than a papist (March, 1528, in his Great Confession on the Lords Supper). His personal interview with him at Marburg (October, 1529) produced no change, but rather intensified his dislike. He saw in the heroic death of Zwingli and the defeat of the Zurichers at Cappel (1531) a righteous judgment of God, and found fault with the victorious Papists for not exterminating his heresy (Wider etliche Rottengeister, Letter to Albrecht of Prussia, April, 1532, in De Wette's edition of L. Briefe, Vol. IV. pp. 352, 353). And even shortly before his death, unnecessarily offended by a new publication of Zwingli's works, he renewed the eucharistic controversy in his Short Confession on the Lord's Supper (1544, in Walch's edition, Vol. XX. p. 2195), in which he abused Zwingli and Oecolampadius as heretics, liars, and murderers of souls, and calls the Reformed generally 'eingeteufelte [ἐνδιαβολισθέντες], durchteufelte, überteufelte lästerliche Herzen und Lügenmäuler.' No wonder that even the gentle Melanchthon called this a 'most atrocious book,' and gave up all hope for union (letter to Bullinger, Aug. 30, 1544, in Corp. Reform. Vol. V. p. 475: 'Atrocissimum Lutheri scriptum, in quo bellum περὶ δείπνου κυριακοῦ instaurat;' comp. also his letter to Bucer, Aug. 28, 1544, in Corp. Reform. Vol. V. p. 474, both quoted also by Gieseler, Vol. IV. p. 412, note 38, and p. 434, note 37). But it should in justice be added, first, that Luther's heart was better than his temper, and, secondly, that he never said a word against Calvin; . . .

(The Creeds of Christendom, Vol. I, 1877, revised by Philip Schaff: 5th edition in 1884; this is the 6th edition from 1931; Chapter Six, section 45; p. 260 [online link] )

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Here are some very telling excerpts from the aforementioned letter of Luther's:
And recently God has notably punished the poor people of Switzerland, Zwingli and his followers, for they were hardened and perverted, condemned of themselves, as St. Paul says. They will all experience the same.

Although neither Munzerites nor Zwinglians will admit that they are punished by God, but give out that they are martyrs, nevertheless we, who know that they have gravely erred in the sacrament and other articles, recognize God's punishment and beware of it ourselves. Not that we rejoice in their misfortune, which is and always has been a sorrow to our hearts, but we cannot let the witness of God pass unnoticed. We hope from the bottom of our hearts that they are saved, as it is not impossible for God to convert a man in a moment at his death; but to call them martyrs implies that they died for a certain divine faith, which they did not. We do not send criminals whom we execute to hell, but we do not for that reason make martyrs of them.

. . . We must believe that this is a chastisement of God, of which they cannot boast . . .

Wherefore I warn your Grace, and beg that you will avoid such people and not suffer them in your land. . . . for if you allow any to teach against the long and unanimously held doctrine of the Church when you can prevent it, it may well be called an unbearable burden to conscience. . . . For we must not trifle with the articles of faith so long and unanimously held by Christendom . . .

(Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Luther, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, 291-292; letter from Wittenberg, "February or beginning of March, 1532 [online link] )
Luther's general thought on the question of execution of heretics was expressed in a statement from his Home-Postils in 1533:
[T]he worldly authorities bear the sword with orders to prevent all scandal, so that it may not enter and inflict harm. But the most dangerous and horrible scandal is where false doctrine and worship penetrates . . . They (i.e., State officials) must resist it (i.e., such scandal) stoutly, and realize that nothing else will avail save their use of the sword and of the full extent of their power in order to preserve the doctrine pure and the worship clean and undefiled.

(in Erasmus and Luther: Their Attitude to Toleration, Robert H. Murray, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1920, p. 274; [online link] documentation of German primary sources in the footnotes; parentheses in this work)
Thus, in accordance with this mentality of secular states executing persons because of their religious beliefs (and in light of his thought about Zwinglians and God's judgment), we see his chilling reaction to the martyrdoms of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher:
The fierceness of his zeal was blinding him increasingly. He rejoiced at the death of those rare spirits, Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher, in 1535. His joy arose in part from the circumstance that the latter had just been created a member of the Sacred College. "Oh, that our Right Reverend Cardinals, Popes and Roman Legates," he wrote, "had more kings of England to destroy them."

(Ibid., p. 274)
This lovely sentiment was expressed in a letter to Philip Melanchthon in the beginning of December 1535. It is reprinted in LW, Vol. 50: Letters III, 113-117 [see online link]. Luther opines (p. 115):
It is quite easy for someone who knows what kind of traitors, thiefs, robbers, and even devils the most reverend lord cardinals, popes, and their ambassadors are, to have second thoughts. I wish there would be more kings of England who would slay them.

[Footnote 9 mentions the editor's opinion that this statement might relate to St. John Fisher's execution; cf. similar citation in Hartmann Grisar, Martin Luther: His Life and Work, Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1950, p. 415; he provides some of the original Latin from primary source Briefwechsel, Vol. X, p. 275: "Utinam haberent plures reges Angliae, qui eos occiderent"]

Philip Melanchthon in 1530 Longs for the Jurisdiction of Catholic Bishops and is Agonized Over Protestant Divisions

By Dave Armstrong (11-30-07)

[Melanchthon's own words will be in blue throughout]


Martin Luther's successor Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was (contrary to widespread Protestant antipathy to hierarchical Church government) willing to revive the jurisdiction of Catholic bishops in negotiations at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. This is documented by many historians. For example, note his letter to Cardinal Campeggio, of 4 August, 1530:
For this reason I have often shown that if a few things were kept in the background, these divisions could be healed. In my opinion it would contribute very much to the quiet of the Church and to the dignity of the Roman See, to make peace on the conditions which I have mentioned. For also our priests should in turn render obedience to the bishops. Thus the Church would unite again in one body, and the Roman See would have its own honour, so that, if anything wrong remains in the churches, it can gradually be corrected by the care of the bishops. It is also our earnest desire to be freed from these contentions, that we may give our whole attention to the diligent improvement of doctrine. And unless this be done, wise men can easily foresee what, amid so many sects, will come upon posterity. And in this matter it is easy to see how indifferent those are whom you now oppose to us. Yesterday the Confutation of our Confession was read. If it shall be published, condemning us, believe me it will not have great admiration among judicious men, and will irritate the minds of ours. Thus there is danger that by the renewal of this whole tragedy, greater commotion than ever will ensue. Hence I desire that these evils of the Church be not increased in virulence. Therefore I beg you to indicate to me in a few words, whether you have spoken with your Reverend Master about those conditions, and what hope he will hold out. If I can obtain anything favourable I will take care that the Roman See may not repent its kindness. The feelings and desires of many good men are united in this matter, who will do all they can to enlarge the authority of the bishops and to establish the peace of the Church.

(Philip Melanchthon: The Protestant Preceptor of Germany, James William Richard [Lutheran], New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1898, 213 [online link] )
Biographer Richard continues:
He is willing that the government of the Pope, and of the bishops, shall remain for the sake of unity throughout the world, provided they do not abuse their authority
by suppressing sound doctrine.

(Ibid., 221-222)
These Articles, because they were laid before the convention at Schmalkald in February, 1537, are known as the Schmalkald Articles. They are the most positive and antipapal of all the Lutheran Confessions, and are in effect a declaration of war against Rome. Melanchthon, influenced by his love of peace, and by his preference for a Church government independent of the State, subscribed with the following qualifications:
"I, Philip Melanchthon, regard the foregoing articles as right and Christian. But of the Pope I hold that if he will permit the Gospel, the government of the bishops which he now has from others, may be jure humano also conceded to him by us, for the sake of peace and the common tranquillity of those Christians who are, or may hereafter be under him."
(Ibid., 261)
Melanchthon also expressed the same thing (lest we think his "offer" was only in the context of conciliation and diplomacy) to his very close -- perhaps best -- friend, Joachim Camerarius, in a letter of August 31, 1530:
Melanchthon, on the other hand, still adhered to the position which he had occupied in the compromise discussions at Augsburg, whence, e.g., he wrote to Camerarius, August 31, 1530: "Oh, would that I could, not indeed fortify the domination, but restore the administration of the bishops. For I see what manner of church we shall have when the ecclesiastical body has been disorganized. I see that afterwards there will arise a much more intolerable tyranny [of the princes] than there ever was before." (C.R. 2, 334)

(from: Historical Introductions to the Symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, by F. Bente, section 70 [online link]; published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church: St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921)
Catholic biographer of Luther, Hartmann Grisar notes the same letter:
He himself, as early as Aug. 31, 1530, had foretold, "that, later, a far more insufferable tyranny would arise than had ever before been known," viz. the tyranny due to the interference of the Princes in whose hands the power of persecution had been laid. Hence his exclamation: "If only I could revive the jurisdiction of the bishops! For I see what sort of Church we shall have if the ecclesiastical constitution is destroyed." 3 As we know, he was anxious gradually to graft the old ecclesiastical constitution on Luther's congregations.

[footnote 3: To Camerarius, "Corp. ref.," 2, p. 334]

(from: Luther, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, six volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917; Vol. VI, 270 [online link] )

["C.R." = Corpus Reformatorum, a collection of primary early Protestant sources in Latin, French, and German, edited by Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider in Halle starting in 1834]

Historian Philip Schaff mentioned this belief of Melanchthon's, on p. 33 of his History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII (Chapter One; § 10):

The transfer of the episcopal and papal power to the head of the state was not contemplated by the Reformers, but was the inevitable consequence of the determined opposition of the whole Roman hierarchy to the Reformation. The many and crying abuses which followed this change in the hands of selfish and rapacious princes, were deeply deplored by Melanchthon, who would have consented to the restoration of the episcopal hierarchy on condition of the freedom of gospel preaching and gospel teaching.

. . . The controversies among the Protestants in the sixteenth century roused all the religious and political passions and cast a gloom over the bright picture of the Reformation. Melanchthon declared that with tears as abundant as the waters of the river Elbe he could not express his grief over the distractions of Christendom and the "fury of theologians."
http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


Also, in the same volume, Chapter Five, § 76:
The Protestant sovereigns became supreme bishops in their respective dominions. They did not preach, nor administer the sacraments, but assumed the episcopal jurisdiction in the government of the Church, and exercised also the right of reforming the Church (jus reformationis) in their dominions, whereby they established a particular confession as the state religion, and excluded others, or reduced them to the condition of mere toleration. This right they claimed by virtue of a resolution of the Diet of Speier, in 1526, which was confirmed by the Peace of Augsburg, 1555, and ultimately by the Peace of Westphalia, 1648. The Reformers regarded this secular summepiscopate as a temporary arrangement which was forced upon them by the hostility of the bishops who adhered to the Pope. They justified it by the example of Josiah and other pious kings of Israel, who destroyed idolatry and restored the pure worship of Jehovah. They accepted the protection and support of the princes at the sacrifice of the freedom and independence of the church, which became an humble servant of the state. Melanchthon regretted this condition; and in view of the rapacity of the princes, and the confusion of things, he wished the old bishops back again, and was willing even to submit to the authority of a pope if the pope would allow the freedom of the gospel. In Scandinavia and England the episcopal hierarchy was retained, or a new one substituted for the old, and gave the church more power and influence in the government. [my emphases]

Again, in his Vol. VIII, Chapter 18, § 164, Schaff refers to Melanchthon's lament over divisions:

Melanchthon left this world at his own home (1560), like Calvin; his last and greatest sorrow was the dissensions in the Church for which he could shed tears as copious as the waters of the Elbe. He desired to die that he might be delivered first of all from sin, and also from "the fury of theologians."
The latter sentiment from Melanchthon appeared in a letter to Thomas Cranmer in March 1548:
[H]e wrote to Cranmer, lamenting the plight of the church, 'buffeted as she is with divisions and strife', and lamenting that she would be buffeted still further if her leaders failed to agree. These calamities, he wrote, brought such sorrow and a 'greater flood of tears than the waters of our Elbe or your Thames', all these different theories and all this wrangling, and all the while the true teaching of the ancient church is disregarded.

(Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation, John Schofield, Ashgate Publishing, 2006, 156 [online link] )

I had seen (an cited previously) another rendering of this same statement (or at any rate, the same essential thought) in a Catholic book:

All the waters of the Elbe would not yield me tears sufficient to weep for the miseries caused by the Reformation.

(in John L. Stoddard, Rebuilding a Lost Faith, New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1922, 88 / Epistles, Book 4, Ep. 100)
Both Melanchthon and Luther were intensely disturbed and disgusted by divisions in Protestantism (though they never seemed to concede that the Protestant -- Lutheran -- first principles of private judgment and sola Scriptura played a key role in the ensuing divisions).

Courtesy of the fine research work of blog contributor Ben M., I now can post more extensive portions of Melanchthon's letter to Thomas Cranmer (dated "about April 1, 1548"):

[T]he letter of his son Jonas arrived, in which he relates to me a certain conversation of yours, on a Question, by no means obscure, but which has severely shaken the Churches, and will shake them still more severely, because those who bear rule do not seek for true remedies in so momentous a matter.

I do not, however, desire in this letter to do any thing more than express my grief, which is so great, that it could not be exhausted, though I were to shed a flood of tears as large as our Elbe or your Thames.

You see what a multitude of explanations have been elaborated in former times, and are elaborated at this day; because a simple and sincere [appeal to] antiquity is neglected . . .

I could have wished (as I wrote in a former letter) both with regard to this question and some other matters, that a Summary of necessary doctrine might be publicly set forth, without any private feeling; after the deliberations and decisions of pious and learned men, brought together for the discussion of those matters: so that no ambiguities should be left to posterity, as an apple of discord.

The Council of Trent makes its crafty Decrees, in order to protect its errors by ambiguous expressions. Such sophistry ought to be far away from the Church. There is not the least absurdity in true things being proposed in right words: both the goodness of the matters themselves, and their perspicuous enunciation, would invite the attention of upright minds in every part of the world.

(Gleanings of a Few Scattered Ears During the Period of the Reformation in England, George Cornelius Gorham [Anglican], London, 1857 [online link], pp. 42-44; brackets in original; my emphases)
In a second letter to Cranmer on May 1st, Melanchthon reiterates:
. . . I hope, and desire to urge, that you will put forth a true and perspicuous Confession on the whole body of doctrine, the judgments of learned men having been compared, and their names being subscribed to it; in order that an illustrious testimony of doctrine, delivered with grave authority, may be extant among all nations, and that posterity may have a rule to follow. . . .

Far better it is, in the Church, to call a spade, a spade, than to throw ambiguous expressions before posterity; as in mythology it is said that the apple of strife was thrown before the Goddesses seated at a banquet. If there had been a clear consent among our Churches in Germany, we should not have fallen into these miseries.

(Ibid., 44-46; quote from p. 45; my emphasis)
John Calvin wrote a similar letter to John Knox (dated 23 April 1561):
It grieves me exceedingly, that your noble men are torn asunder by intestine dissensions. It is not unreasonable that you should be more vexed and distressed by the internal workings of Satan, than you have hitherto been by the attacks of the French.

(Ibid., p. 418)
Protestant historian Philip Schaff, in his biographical study of Melanchthon, cites another very similar sentiment (unfortunately undocumented) -- the "as many tears as the river Elbe" motif --, from Melanchthon's "last days":
Add to these public calamities and personal attacks the growing weakness and sickness of the body, and various domestic bereavements, and we need not wonder that the last years of Melanchthon were years of grief and sorrow rather than of joy and pleasure. He experienced the full measure of that melancholy which cast its shade over the closing scenes of Luther, and many other great and good men. He often prayed to be delivered from the "fury of theologians" (rabies theoloyorum).

His personal sufferings, however, did not affect him near as much as his care for the Church. He uttered the noble sentiment: "If my eyes were a fountain of tears, as rich as the river Elbe, I could not sufficiently express my sorrow over the divisions and distractions of Christians." His heart and soul longed and prayed, in unison with the spirit of his divine Master, that all believers "may be perfected into one," even as He and the Father are one (John xvii. 23).

(Saint Augustin, Melanchthon, Neander: Three Biographies, New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886, 121 [online link] )
Presumably, this statement, dating from our subject's last days, must be dated around 1559-1560, which means that it is distinct from the utterance to Cranmer in 1548. This, in turn, means that it was a more or less general ongoing opinion of Melanchthon's, concerning Protestant division, as opposed to a momentary despairing.

Thus, Melanchthon, Luther, and Calvin were all quite distressed about the increasing sectarianism of their time, whereas many Protestants today think it is a big non-issue that there are many sects, as long as they agree on so-called "central doctrines." That has become a necessary development, in light of the inability of historic Protestantism to bring about doctrinal and ecclesial unity, except in cases of denominations becoming so liberal that they can unite with others similarly "heterodox" (from a denominational perspective).


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advent Traditions: Resources

By Dave Armstrong (11-29-07)



True Christmas Spirit
(fantastic monograph about Advent by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin - 283K)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Elsa Chaney)


Family Advent Customs
(Helen McLoughlin)
 

Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home (Helen McLoughlin)
 

A Candle is Lighted (P. Stewart Craig) 

"Advent" (Catholic Encyclopedia)


For more Christmas materials, see "Dave's Old-Fashioned Christmas Page" (see how it used to look in its fuller version on my old website). It includes many original poems and extensive research on Christmas carols.


http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


                                                                        
* * *



Communitarian Aspects of the Mass


By Dave Armstrong (11-29-07)

A Catholic woman asked some questions and was critical of certain statements made by CHNI (probably Marcus Grodi). Here was my response. Her words will be paraphrased and in blue.

* * * * *

When I go to Mass (so I have been taught), it is just God and myself, and no one else.

Obviously, the others who are there exist, too! The Church was meant to be a community. Take, for example, the Last Supper, our model for the Holy Eucharist, and in fact, the literal beginning of that rite, which is, of course central to the Mass. It wouldn't make sense that it was only He and John present, or He and Peter, etc. No; He was there with all twelve disciples. It was a Passover meal, after all, which was certainly a communal, family event. hence, Jesus said (to all the disciples): "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15; RSV)

I'm not there to talk to other parishioners, but to God.

During the Mass, that is certainly true. But that doesn't mean it is not a community, with all doing the liturgy and offering the Sacrifice of the Mass together with the priest.

It is a vertical relationship of myself and God, as opposed to a "communal gathering." I join my prayer with that of others in those parts of the Mass where all participate, but it is essentially "He and I."

I don't understand why you draw this distinction, since you deny that it is a "communal gathering" yet you join your prayers with those of the priest and laypeople present. Isn't that a contradiction? It's not just "Jesus and Me" in the Mass: it is the communal sense of "Jesus and His Church; His Bride." It is the Church that gathers, not a collection of atomistic individuals, who happen to be there together at that particular time.

"Praying in community" is not a Catholic notion and shouldn't be forced on Catholics. We reply as a "family of God" only when we respond to the priest's prayers.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


The Mass necessarily involves a collective, communitarian sense. It is indeed the entire congregation offering the Mass together. The priest presides, but he is not the only one making the offering. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this quite clear in many entries (my bolded emphases added):
1352 The anaphora: with the Eucharistic Prayer - the prayer of thanksgiving and consecration - we come to the heart and summit of the celebration:

In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God.

1353 In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis). [first part]

1354 In the anamnesis that follows, the Church calls to mind the Passion, resurrection, and glorious return of Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his Son which reconciles us with him.

In the intercessions, the Church indicates that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth, the living and the dead, and in communion with the pastors of the Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium and his deacons, and all the bishops of the whole world together with their Churches.

1357 We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.

1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity.

1360 The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."
1361 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him.

1368 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.

In the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him, she offers herself and intercedes for all men.

1369 The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ. . . . The community intercedes also for all ministers who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice: [partial]

1370 To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ.
Individual prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to God at various times in the Mass is fine, during periods of silence and meditation. Otherwise, we are urged to actively participate in the entire Mass, and not to be passive "spectators" or recipients. I'm not saying you aren't participating; you clearly are, in profound ways. I'm simply disagreeing that it is not a community offering at Mass.

Protestants gather for "community prayer" because they have only the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but not the eucharistic Jesus substantially present, as we do.

Perhaps it is largely a semantic difference. I'm not denying the personal time of communion between a Catholic and and their Lord at Mass. But I think you shouldn't deny, either, the communal aspects of the Mass. Even the Lord's Prayer is communal: it is offered in the plural:
Our Father . . . give us this day our daily bread. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us . . . lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil . . .
There are plenty of singular prayers in the Psalms (many from David). But when Jesus taught us to pray, it was in this communal, group sense. I think that is highly significant.

My point is that the Mass is a communitarian effort insofar as the congregation actually participate in the offering. The CCC makes this very clear. I think we're just pointing out different aspects that complement, not contradict each other.

The CCC shows that "community" is not "non-Catholic" at all. It's not a liberal idea (though the liberals in the Church have clearly abused it, just like they do everything else), as you appeared to me to imply; it is an apostolic tradition idea and a Bible idea. That is where I saw that your analysis went too far, in my opinion. But most of what you expressed is fine. It's a "both/and" scenario, not "either/or."

I theological despise liberalism. I have a web page about it and a portion of one of my books. devoted to this extremely serious error. The present issue, however, is not, I think, one having to do with any liberal or dissident notions. We mustn't fall into the "guilt by association" fallacy. Maybe your parish has some goofy stuff going on, but that doesn't mean we should throw out the baby with the bath water. Can we agree that what you are stressing and what I am stressing are both true?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Orthodox View of OT Canon / Athanasius' Qualified Acceptance of the Deuterocanon / Jerome's "Deuterocanon Anomalies"

By Dave Armstrong (11-27-07)


Timothy Ware, in his well-known book, The Orthodox Church (New York: Penguin Books, 1980 edition, 208-209), writes:
As its authoritative text for the Old Testament it [the Orthodox Church] uses the ancient Greek translation known as the Septuagint. When this differs from the original Hebrew (which happens quite often), Orthodox believe that the changes in the Septuagint were made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are to be accepted as part of God's continuing revelation . . .

The Hebrew version of the Old testament contains thirty-nine books. The Septuagint contains in addition ten further books, not present in Hebrew, which are known in the Orthodox Church as the 'Deuter-Canonical' books. These were declared by the Councils of Jassy (1642) and Jerusalem (1672) to be 'genuine parts of Scripture'; most Orthodox scholars at the present day, however, following the opinion of Athanasius and Jerome, consider that the Deutero-Canonical Books, although part of the Bible, stand on a lower footing than the rest of the Old Testament.
Likewise, Stanley S. Harakas, in The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers (Minneapolis: Light & Life Publishing Co., 1987, 27) writes:
Roman Catholics accept seven of the Deuterocanonical Books. The Orthodox accept all 10.
For a more in-depth treatment, see: The Old Testament in the Orthodox Church, by Fr. R. Stergiou (Greekl Orthodox). He summarizes:

Even though the different Traditions of Orthodoxy may differ in which books they include in the Old Testament Canon, the fact remains that the Conscience of the Church generally accepts the Septuagint (LXX) or Alexandrian Canon....

St. Athanasius is one of the favorites of Protestants (probably second to St. Augustine in that regard). It's true that he did seem to lower the status of the deuterocanonical books somewhat, but not to a sub-biblical level, as noted by my good friend Gary Michuta, in his excellent book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger (Port Huron, Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007, 110-112; footnote numbering my own):
Athanasius quotes both Baruch and Susanna right along passages from Isaiah, Psalms, Romans, and Hebrews; he makes no distinction or qualification between them [1]. Wisdom also is used as an authentic portion of sacred Scripture . . .:
But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said, 'The devising of idols, as the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life . . .' [Ws 14:12] [2]
And later in the same work:
For since they were endeavouring to invest with what Scripture calls the incommunicable name . . . [3]
This reference to the "incommunicable name" comes from Wisdom 14:21 . . .

Athanasius quotes another passage from Wisdom as constituting the teachings of Christ, the Word of God. He undoubtedly uses it to confirm doctrine. [4] In another argument against Arians, he calls both the Protocanonical Proverbs and the Deuterocanonical Wisdom "holy Scripture" . . . [5] . . .

Athanasius also quotes the book of Sirach without distinction or qualification, in the midst of several other scriptural quotations. [6] . . . Athanasius calls the Book of Judith Scripture. [7] Tobit is cited right along with several Protocanonical quotations [8] , and even introduced with the solemn formula "it is written." [9]

[1]
Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1.12.
[2]
Against the Heathen, 11.1. Emphasis added.
[3]
Against the Heathen, 1, 17.3.
[4]
On the Incarnate Word, 4.6; 5.2.
[5]
Defense Against Arius, 1, 3.
[6]
Life of Anthony, 28 and Apology Against the Arians, 66.
[7]
Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35 . . .
[8]
Defense of Constantius, 17. Tobit is cited after Matthew and Isaiah.
[9]
Defense Against Arius, Part 1, 11.
http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


The great Protestant Bible scholar F.F. Bruce confirms Michuta's analysis:
As Athanasius includes Baruch and the 'Letter of Jeremiah' in one book with Jeremiah and Lamentations [in his list of the OT canon], so he probably includes the Greek additions to Daniel in the canonical book of that name, and the additions to Esther in the book of that name which he recommends for reading in church [but doesn't list as a canonical book] . . .

In practice Athanasius appears to have paid little attention to the formal distinction between those books which he listed in the canon and those which were suitable for instruction of new Christians. He was familiar with the text of all, and quoted from them freely, often with the same introductory formula -- 'as it is written', 'as the scripture says', etc.

(The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 79-80; my bracketed comments, based on the larger context of Bruce's analysis)
With St. Jerome, it was a different situation altogether. Michuta concedes:
Jerome is the first of the Western Fathers to deny the inspired status of the Deuterocanon; the first to unabashedly designate them apocrypha instead . . . Jerome's new canon was an innovation -- and he knew it.

(Michuta, ibid., 142)

Protestant apologists often attempt to make Jerome the spokesman for a large silent majority of knowledgeable Christians in his day; this opinion is supported by no evidence whatsoever. Protestant scholars have long admitted that Jerome was essentially alone in his opposition to the Deuterocanon . . . It was also a decisive break from the practice of the ancient Christian Church.

(Ibid., 145)
But even with Jerome, there were several anomalies (or changes of mind or vacillations?), of such a nature that the would shock many a Protestant who rely on him as a "champion" in opposing the Deuterocanon. Gary Michuta enumerates several of these curious inconsistencies:
He . . . flatly denies that Tobit is part of the canon, [1] although elsewhere he cites it without qualification! [2] . . . Jerome adopts the popular convention in his Letter to Oceanus by quoting Baruch as a voice made by "the trumpets of the prophets." [3] Sirach is both rejected and quoted as Scripture, [4] although it is formally quoted [5] and occasionally used without qualification. [6] Wisdom is also occasionally formally quoted. [7] Jerome even attributes the passages from Wisdom to the Holy Spirit. [8] Maccabees is used without distinction. [9] Jerome at times alludes to the Deuterocanonical sections of Daniel in his letters. [10] Deuterocanonical passages from Esther are likewise quoted. [11] . . . he lists Judith as one of the virtuous women of sacred Scripture . . . [12].

[1] Prologue to John.
[2] Commentary in Eccles. 8.
[3]
Letter 77:4.
[4]
Commentary on Isaiah, Book 2, 3:12; Letters 77:6: 108:22; 118:1; 148:2,16,18.
[5]
Commentary on Jeremiah, Book 4, 21:14; Commentary on Ezekiel, Book 6, 18:6; and Letter 64:5.
[6]
Commentary on Isaiah, Book 8, 24:4; Commentary on Ezekiel, Book 6, 18:6; Letter 57.1 To Pammachius; and Letter 125.19, To Rusticus.
[7]
Commentary on Isaiah, Book 1, 1:24; Commentary on Zechariah, Book 3, 14:9; and Commentary on Malachi, 3:7 ff.
[8]
Commentary on Galatians, Book 1, 3:2 . . . and Breviarium in Psalmos, Ps 9.
[9]
Against Pelagians, Book 2:30; Letter 7, To Chromatius, Jovinus and Eusebius.
[10]
Letter 3, 1 To Rufinus the Monk; Letter 22,9-10, To Eustochium; Letter 1, 9 to Innocent.
[11]
Letter 48, To Pammachius, 14.[12] Letter 65,1.

(Michuta, ibid., 149-150; again, my own footnote numbering)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recommended Books for New or Prospective Catholic Converts

By Dave Armstrong (11-26-07)


The following three are all great introductions:

Catholic and Christian, Alan Schreck

The Spirit of Catholicism
, Karl Adam [online edition]
Evangelical is Not Enough, Thomas Howard

For a great analysis of many fundamental Protestant-Catholic differences, see:

The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, Louis Bouyer

As to why we believe our doctrines are more biblical, there is my own book:

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

For the crucial Bible and Tradition issue, I recommend Mark Shea's book, By What Authority
And for the same topic and also salvation / faith alone issues, see:

The Salvation Controversy, Jimmy Akin and Regis Martin

For a good book on baptism and the Eucharist, including a conversion story, see Steve Ray's Crossing the Tiber.

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/



For questions about the Mass and Catholic liturgical matters, see:

The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You, Michael Dubruiel

The Bible and the Mass, Peter M.J. Stravinskas

Mass Appeal: The ABCs of Worship, Jimmy Akin

Also, conversion books are great. Surprised by Truth is a big bestseller, that has helped many people. There were two "sequels" too:

Surprised by Truth II

Surprised by Truth III


Anything by Scott Hahn or Pat Madrid or Peter Kreeft or Karl Keating would be good. Catholic radio host Al Kresta has written two very helpful "Q & A" or "FAQ"-type books:

Why Do Catholics Genuflect?: And Answers to Other Puzzling Questions About the Catholic Church

Why Are Catholics So Concerned About Sin?: More Answers to Puzzling Questions About the Catholic Church


G.K. Chesterton wrote a book called The Catholic Church and Conversion that is still relevant today [online version]

His book Orthodoxy also makes for great "introductory" material [online version]

Those would be my basic recommendations.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue #3: Necessity of Reform / Indulgences / Causes of Schism / Fathers' Authority

By Dave Armstrong (11-20-07)


Pastor Larry A. Nichols (Lutheran - Missouri Synod, or "LCMS") is the author of several books, including Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult (Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, with George A. Mather & Alvin J. Schmidt), Masonic Lodge (Zondervan, 1995; with George A. Mather & Alan W. Gomes), Discovering the Plain Truth: How the Worldwide Church of God Encountered the Gospel of Grace (Intervarsity Press, 1997; co-author George A. Mather), and Encyclopedic Dictionary of World Religions (2006; with George A. Mather & Alvin J. Schmidt). He has also written many journal articles.

Pastor Nichols' words will be in blue.


* * * * *

At long last I find some time to write a response. I must say that with my current pastoral responsibilities, PhD work, and teaching responsibilities, that if it were not for Johnny Montalvo, I would not be engaging in this debate. It is not that I do not enjoy theological exchanges, but the demands on my time right now are enormous. I do, however, take my pastoral role with Johnny quite seriously as I would with any member of my congregation and therefore I will indeed, along with my colleague, Rev. Ben Maton, take time to see this through so as to do all I can to help answer his inquiries towards the end of ultimately hearing the Gospel in all of its purity. And my good friend and colleague, Pastor Maton, is not lazy at all, just quite humble about his busy-ness.

I appreciate your taking the time to engage in a fruitful, educational discussion, and I am sure Johnny does, too. Thank God for clergymen who are attentive to the needs of their flock.And I am interested in promulgating not only the Gospel in all of its purity (amen!) but also the fullness of the complete apostolic deposit, and all the Christian truth that God has for us.
First of all, I would like to state up front where we are coming from because I’m afraid that there has been a great misunderstanding. After addressing this, I will get to each of David’s arguments and point out where we believe that there are inconsistencies and misrepresentations concerning what we were arguing in response to Johnny’s question concerning the authority of “Luther to start his own church.”

I am sure that with more interaction we can understand each other's viewpoints better. That's the great thing about dialogue. I want to hear your opinions and learn more about Lutheranism, and am grateful for the opportunity to help explain Catholicism a bit, too.

First to the very issue of Lutheranism and the Reformation.


I would like to offer an analogy from Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten in his book Mother Church, 1998. Dr. Braaten is one of the most participatory theologians in the current ecumenical dialog between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. His views (mostly) represent my own. WithReformation Sunday having just taken place, I recently wrote an article reflecting upon whether we should continue as Lutherans to call the Reformation a “celebration.” Dr. Braaten, borrowing from Jaroslav Pelikan, (The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, (1959), calls it a “tragic necessity.” Dr. Braaten shares a modern day parable. In the first chapter of his book titled, The Tragedy of the Reformation and the Return to Catholicity, he writes:
In June of 1940 Adolf Hitler’s army invaded and conquered France. Marshall Petain became the head of the state under Hitler and formulated what was notoriously known as the Vichy Government. Petain acted as a puppet in Hitler’s occupation army. Many a loyal and patriotic Frenchmen, however, for the love of the true fatherland protested against the Vichy government. A man came forth – a kind of a savior figure for France at the crucial hour. He was General Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle raised the cross of Lorraine in Britain and became the rallying point for all free Frenchmen who joined with him in the fight to liberate their beloved country. Frenchmen became divided. Some were loyal to the Vichy government of Petain, and others joined the free French forces in exile. Their purpose in being outside of France was to preserve the glory of France, to protest against a false government, to struggle for the liberation of their homeland, and on V-Day be reunited with their fellow countrymen.
What if those free Frenchmen had forgotten the reason for their exile, became accustomed to life outside of France, lost interest in returning, and began to think and act as if what was meant to be a temporary arrangement and provisional expedient in an emergency situation had actually become for them a permanent home and satisfying establishment? Suppose they had ignored the cause of liberation for which they rallied around de Gaulle and instead set up a new government in some other colony, calling it France, enjoying their newfound life so much that the very thought of ever going back to the land of their birth made them ill. Now if that had happened one would call it a tragedy – a tragedy very much like the tragedy of the Reformation.
(Carl Braaten, Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), pp. 11-12)
Braaten then applies his parable to the fact of both the tragedy and the necessity of the Reformation. In so doing, any responsible Lutheran would agree that the events of the sixteenth century were indeed tragic. The question is – were they necessary? Part of the tragedy was the very abysmal state that the Roman Church had fallen into by the time of Luther. The tragedy also lies in the fact that Luther’s reforms should have been heeded. Any responsible Roman Catholic theologian, priest, etc. admits to the sorry state of affairs of Roman Catholicism in the late Middle Ages and that Luther’s protest over the sale of indulgences did indeed merit debate and reform. Instead, in the response from Armstrong, we see an attempt to defend the practice of indulgences.

But I don't disagree, for the most part, with this analysis (I do to some extent, but not nearly as much as you may imagine). I can assure you and our readers that "great misunderstanding" is present on both sides, as will be clearer as I proceed. 

First of all, I'm the very last person who would ever deny that the Catholic Church needed to be reformed in the 16th century. It needs to be reformed at all times. I would say, in agreement with you, that not only any "responsible" Catholic should think that, but indeed, any conscious or sane Catholic whatsoever. In fact, I've never met any Catholic who thinks and knows history at all, who would deny this. That isn't the issue at all. No one disagrees with it. Rather, the real issue, as a Catholic sees it, is what should have been done to reform the tragic corruptions and nonsense and nominalism that were going on at the time.

We strongly agree with you that reform was necessary. But we would deny that a split (schism) or what is known as the "Reformation" was necessary. That is where the difference lies, rather than the common Protestant caricature of one side acknowledging problems and doing something about it and the other denying the problem and putting their collective heads in the sand. The Catholic Church had its own reform shortly afterwards, in the form of the Council of Trent.

Nor have I ever met an informed Catholic who would deny that the Catholic Church and Catholics shared a great deal of blame in the events of that time. The Catholic Church is often making "official" statements of regret and apology. To my knowledge, I don't recall seeing similar "official" pronouncements from Lutherans (if there are some, I'd love to be directed to them). There are some in the ongoing ecumenical dialogues, but LCMS rejects those from the outset. You may personally be interested in ecumenism (good for you), but your denomination has opposed the"official" Lutheran-Catholic dialogues.

Just yesterday, in my response to Pastor Maton, I cited a Catholic, James McCue, fully acknowledging that Catholics were largely to blame for fostering Luther's antipathy to the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass:
Luther took Roman Catholic practice as a genuine incarnation of Roman Catholic doctrine: the meaning of the mass as "sacrifice" he read off from the lived piety of his day. In this he erred I think; but the way was prepared by the indifference of Roman Catholic theologians to the problem of the relation of theology to the concrete life of the Church. When theologians who defend the sacrificial concept of the mass seem not to be disturbed by the development of a sub-Christian understanding of sacrifice within Roman Catholic piety, then there is at least some justification for thinking that the piety does express the doctrine. It is a very natural assumption, though in a surprising number of cases it turns out to be false, that practice and doctrine will agree, and that the meaning of the latter is best understood by means of the former.

. . . the fact that Roman Catholic theologians -- both before Luther and after him -- did not think that it was an essential part of their theological responsibility to criticize the
status quo in light of the Church's norm and ideal helped to create a situation in which such misconstruction was possible.
McCue is thus -- without forsaking any Catholic doctrine -- willing to blame the laxity of Catholic theologians for being the primary cause of one of the major disagreements between Catholics and Protestants. If they had been doing their job, perhaps things could have turned out differently (at least regarding that doctrine). He doesn't even blame Luther for misunderstanding our doctrine of the mass (and speculates that Luther even basically agreed with the true doctrine).

Nor is it some new thing for me to admit that Catholics bore a large share of the blame (if not the lion's share). I agree with this. You cite Catholic theologian Karl Adam later in your reply. I'm well familiar with him, having read his book, The Spirit of Catholicism in 1990 (I recommend it very highly as an introduction to Catholic thought). I cited him in a paper I wrote in 1991 about Martin Luther and the Protestant Revolt, that eventually became part of the first draft of my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism.

The same excerpt was posted on my website in early 1997 and has remained in my online set of apologetic papers ever since. So this is nothing new. It's been part of my apologetic writing for almost a generation. I'm not just pulling it out of a hat now. I wholeheartedly agree with the following remarks of Karl Adam, that I cite verbatim from my 1991 paper:
Catholics today (more so than formerly) freely admit that the Church in Luther's time sorely needed reforming. The eminent German Catholic theologian Karl Adam, in his book The Roots of the Reformation (translated by Cecily Hastings, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1951 [portion of One and Holy, 1948] ), devotes nearly a third of its space to "weakness in the Church." He states that "the Renaissance Popes seem to have carried out in their own lives that cult of idolatrous humanism, demonic ambition and unrestrained sensuality" (p. 14). He quotes the words of Pope Adrian VI (1522-23), who in turn cited St. Bernard: "Vice has grown so much a matter of course that those who are stained with it are no longer aware of the stink of sin" (p. 20). He is quite frank and descriptive of other abuses:
The majority of this clerical proletariat had neither the intellectual nor the moral capacity to so much as guess the profundity of the questions raised by Luther . . . In this waste of clerical corruption it was impossible for the Spirit of our Lord to penetrate into the people . . .
There was no sacramental impulse towards an interiorizing and deepening of religion. So the attention of the faithful was directed towards externals . . . This hideous simoniacal abuse of indulgences corrupted true piety . . . indulgences were perverted to a blasphemous haggling with God. Night fell on the German Church . . . (pp. 22-26)
He lamented the loss of the Luther that might have been:
Had Martin Luther then arisen with his marvelous gifts of mind and heart, his warm penetration of the essence of Christianity, his passionate defiance or all unholiness and ungodliness, the elemental fury of his religious experience, his surging, soul-shattering power of speech, and not least that heroism in the face of death . . .- had he brought all these magnificent qualities to the removal of the abuses of the time . . . had he remained a faithful member of his Church, humble and simple, sincere and pure, then indeed we should today be his grateful debters. He would be forever our great Reformer . . . comparable to Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi. He would have been the greatest saint of the German people . . .
But -- and here lies the tragedy of the Reformation . . .- he let the warring spirits drive him to overthrow not merely the abuses in the Church, but the Church Herself . . . what St. Augustine calls the greatest sin . . . he set up altar against altar and tore in pieces the one Body of Christ. (pp. 27-28)
Adam then gives his opinion of the origin of Luther's revolt:
The longer the strife continued . . . the confusion in his eyes between the abuses in the Church and the essence of the Church increased; his belief in himself and his mission deepened . . . The abuses . . . certainly unleashed Luther upon the path of revolution, and justified him in the eyes of the masses and in his own judgment. But they were not the actual ground, the decisive reason for Luther's falling away from the doctrine of the Church . . .:
[Luther]: I would have little against the Papists if they taught true doctrine. Their evil life would do no great harm.
It was not ecclesiastical abuses that made him the opponent of the Catholic Church, but the conviction that she was teaching falsely. And this conviction dates from long before the fatal 17th October, 1517. (pp. 34-35)
In the paper where this citation is now found, "Was Corruption in the Medieval Papacy the Primary Cause of the Protestant Revolt?", I explore the issue of primary causes of the 16th-century schism. The actual causes, were, I think, far more complex (and interesting) than the standard popular-level explanations on both sides. Protestant historian Owen Chadwick, for example, denied that mere corruption was the main reason for the rise of Protestantism:
Was it simply that the abuses were worse? That corruption so rotted the carcass that the hollow body collapsed in the moment it was pushed? The evidence upon this point, though hard to judge, suggests not . . .
We must therefore seek other explanations than the simple theory that the Church was too bad to continue, and consider two special circumstances: the increased control of kings over their kingdoms, and the improved education of the intelligent minds of the western world.
(The Reformation [Pelican History of the Church, Volume 3], London: Penguin Books, revised version of 1972, 22, 24)
Secular historian Preserved Smith largely agrees:
That there was great depravity in the church as elsewhere cannot be doubted, but there are several reasons for thinking that it could not have been an important cause for the loss of so many of her sons. In the first place, there is no good ground for believing that the moral condition of the priesthood was worse in 1500 than it had been for a long time; indeed, there is good evidence to the contrary, that things were tending to improve, if not at Rome yet in many parts of Christendom.
. . . The Reformation, like most other revolutions, came not at the lowest ebb of abuse, but at a time when the tide had already begun to run, and to run strongly, in the direction of improvement . . . Had the forces already at work within the church been allowed to operate, probably much of the moral reform desired by the best Catholics would have been accomplished quietly without the violent rending of Christian unity that actually took place. But the fact is, that such reforms never would or could have satisfied the spirit of the age. Men were not only shocked by the abuses in the church, but they had outgrown some of her ideals . . . in certain respects they repudiated, not the abuse but the very principle on which the church acted.
(Reformation in Europe, New York: Collier Books, 1962, from the 1920 original, 27, 31-32)
One of the finest and most respected Protestant Church historians of our time, Alister McGrath, agrees with this general analysis too, in his brand-new book:
[R]ecent scholarship has moved decisively away from the earlier tendency . . . to underplay the social and economic aspects of the emergence of Protestantism in order to emphasize its religious and political elements . . . and has rightly cast doubt on any attempt to define the movement solely or chiefly in terms of the theological agendas of its leading figures. . . .
In the second place, the tidal wave of studies of local archives and private correspondence has confirmed the suspicions of an early generation of scholars - that it is unacceptable to determine the state of the pre-Reformation European church through the eyes of its leading critics, such as Luther and Calvin. It is increasingly clear that attempts to depict the late medieval church as morally and theologically corrupt, unpopular, and near-terminal decline cannot be sustained on the basis of the evidence available. As in every period, the church possessed strengths and weaknesses and sought to consolidate the former and address the latter. It is now clear that Catholic reforming movements were not a response to the criticisms of the Protestant reformers but were deeply enmeshed within the pre-Reformation church - where, paradoxically, they created an appetite for reform that laid the ground for Protestantism in some respects.

(
Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution - A History From the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, New York: HarperCollins, 2007; from Introduction, p. 8)
Thus, Owen Chadwick in 1972 and Preserved Smith way back in 1920 remarkably anticipated "recent scholarship" on the origins of Protestantism. I knew this stuff myself as early as 1991 in my studies of Catholicism and the Protestant Revolt. German historian Johannes Janssen also made the same point in his 16-volume history of Germany, in the early part of the 20th century (that I studied in 1990-1991). Both sides need to get beyond the stereotypes. Most Catholics freely accept their share of the blame.

But how many Protestants are aware of this "cutting-edge" history, described by Dr. McGrath? I suspect, far fewer than
should be . . . One must have a balanced view. Widespread corruption existed, but it was not quite as bad as Protestant partisan histories (for obvious reasons) have often made out, and it was probably not the primary -- let alone sole -- cause of the "Reformation." One need not take my word for that (the partisan Catholic apologist); one can go by folks like the Anglican scholar Alister McGrath.
Lastly, it isn't quite fair to me to characterize my response on the issue of indulgences, with one passing line ("Instead, in the response from Armstrong, we see an attempt to defend the practice of indulgences"), that implies that I have my own head in the sand. I was asked the question:

On the other hand, where is the sale of Indulgences for example, . . . anywhere a part of the apostolic tradition?
And I replied:
I recently put together a paper on indulgences, derived from my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. The essence of the doctrine of indulgences is derived from explicit biblical proofs, as I contended in the book. The key notion is the power of the Church to bind and loose. "Binding" is penance, whereas "loosing" is an indulgence. Thus, when the fathers write about those issues or related ones, they are touching upon indulgences, insofar as penances are lifted.
I carefully answered the question I was asked. If my paper referenced is seriously considered, then one will see that it delves into the question of medieval abuses at some length. But it does so with an eye to shooting down common exaggerations and misconceptions (much as McGrath's analysis above, does). Catholics fully agree that abuses took place, and they were dealt with in the 16th century. I noted how "
The Council of Trent forbade the selling of indulgences." Now, if by "indulgences" one means only the corrupt practices of Luther's time that have long since been reformed, then most people (including Catholics) would agree that they were in need of reform. Everyone knows this.

Again, that is not at issue. But we did not throw the doctrine out
altogether (just as Luther was content to toss out no less than 50 Catholic doctrines when he revolted against Catholic authority). I was asked where this was "anywhere a part of the apostolic tradition" and I replied by providing the biblical rationale, which is hardly even disputable. It is rooted in the notion of "binding and loosing": a quite explicit biblical concept. Protestants want doctrines to be grounded in Holy Scripture. I provided that grounding for indulgences, but my reply was ignored.

Instead, it was "answered" with a terse near-complaint that I would actually "defend" indulgences. Of course I would; I'm a Catholic, and this is Catholic doctrine! But if questions are asked without the slightest intention of discussing the matter asked about, how can dialogue progress? "Indulgence" is not an intrinsically "bad word" like "adultery" or "greed" or "cruelty" or suchlike. It is not the case that "everyone" knows it is wrong and ridiculous, by the mere mention of the word (though lots of Protestants would love for that to be the case). It has to be discussed. If I am asked about something, I'll answer to the best of my ability. I hope my reply can at least be noticed, if not (preferably) actually interacted with.


On the other hand, as Lutherans, we should not ever affix ourselves to the mindset that the Lutheran Reformation was, is, or should be a permanent state of affairs. We do not believe that the Lutheran church should remain in exile. But the only basis for meaningful dialog is that while Lutherans should agree that the Reformation was a “tragedy,” Roman Catholics should in kind agree that the Reformation was indeed a “necessity.” If both parties can concede to that point, then there is a basis for conversation and dialog. And indeed, credible people on both sides have indeed conceded that point.

I (in line with the present pope and the previous one: both of whom are profoundly committed to ecumenism and Christian unity) have conceded as much as a Catholic can concede without ceasing to be Catholic. Obviously, if we thought that Protestantism was an essential improvement over what was before, and the Catholicism that has developed since the 16th century, then we should become Protestants ourselves. As consistent, orthodox Catholics, however, in the end, we have to deny that the "Reformation" as it proceeded, was either necessary or preferable theologically and ecclesiologically.


Some, even many aspects of it were indeed on the right track, and needed, but, as Louis Bouyer argues in his seminal work, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, whatever emphases Protestantism got right were already part of authentic Catholic tradition that was simply poorly understood (for a variety of reasons) in the early 16th century (more on that later, since you cite Bouyer as part of your "case").


This is where modern ecumenical dialog is at right now. One of the problems I have with the various popular books listing the sundry conversion stories of those who have found their way “home to Rome” is that they tend to reflect a most antiquated apologetics that were being employed over a century ago when both sides were hurling insults and barbs at each other, motivated by the enthusiasm and conviction that “our side represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and our opponents are liars who are filled with the devil.”

Sometimes that is true. I think it is far more true of former Catholics, however, than of former Protestants. Former Catholics tend to become anti-Catholics, whereas former Protestants generally do not trash Protestantism wholesale (we do critique its doctrines, of course). I'm regularly described as a liar, deceptive, apostate, insincere, motivated by unsavory goals, etc., by anti-Catholic Protestants on the Internet (recently, for example, one person compared me to Castro and the dictators of Iran and North Korea; then called me a schizophrenic). I never reciprocate those sorts of character assassinations. I even defend some of these severe critics of mine when they are trashed by others. I have never held that Martin Luther was an essentially evil man (as I have been falsely accused of doing).

I would challenge you to produce examples of (non-fringe) Catholic converts using this kind of rhetoric. I could easily provide a dozen examples of prominent (credentialed, published, pastors) online anti-Catholic Protestant apologists trashing our motives, judging people's souls, etc. I know because I've encountered it firsthand.

For the last forty to fifty years, great Roman Catholic theologians have readily acknowledged the huge theological contributions of Luther and the theology of the Augsburg Confession to Western Christendom. And Lutherans, represented by people like Braaten are spending their careers in listening and dialoging with Rome. This is the level of discussion that needs to take place in a debate that is going to maintain integrity and respectability and an honest search for truth.

I agree.And if you and I are to participate in that ongoing task, we need to listen to and interact with each other, too. I'm motivated by an honest search for theological and spiritual truth, and I think you and Pastor Maton are, too.
Consider some of the big Roman Catholic names and what they have been saying: Around 1940, the great Roman Catholic historian, Joseph Lortz, in his writings on the Reformation described the utter worldliness of the papacy, the abuses in church practice, superstitions in piety, and the decadence of late scholasticism. On the other hand he presented Luther as a pious monk posing the ultimate question of salvation.


That is correct and all well and good. I agree. But on the other hand, you are only presenting one side of Lortz's thought (this will be a problem with other Catholics you cite, too, as I will proceed to demonstrate, with documentation). I cited Lortz in my paper on medieval corruption and causes of the split. Readers who are interested can read his analysis there. But, to summarize briefly, Lortz doesn't regard the "Reformation" as fundamentally a movement within Catholicism, because he states: "The Reformation is above all the disavowal of Catholic dogmas." He also blames both Luther and his Catholic debate opponent Eck for being saddled with corrupt Ockhamistic nominalism:
[B]oth are thinking in nominalistic terms. Luther proceeds from this way of thinking with due consistency to the denial of Catholic dogmas. Eck, proceeding from the same nominalistic thought, is unable to illuminate theologically even in a measure satisfactorily the Catholic theses to which he firmly holds . . .
Let us now summarize: at the end of the Middle Ages a dangerous lack of theological clarity existed. It was of such a kind that it was relatively easy for a theologically independent person to become a heretic . . .

http://biblicalcatholicism.com/


In Lortz's book, How the Reformation Came (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964, translated by Otto M. Knab), indeed he takes great pains to be as fair towards our Protestant brethren as he can be (I think, admirably so), but he does not totally excuse Luther and the Protestants from blame, by any stretch of the imagination:
Imagine . . . Luther filled with the theology of Thomas or the Roman Missal instead of Ockhamist theology, and his reformist action simply could not have happened. (p. 33)
Ockhamism was no longer fully Catholic. The missal knows nothing of an arbitrary God, It knows nothing of a cruel, forever threatening judge . . .
Ockhamism teaches an arbitrary God instead of a Father-God, a God who "without objective reason" predestines one for heaven and another for hell, who only accidentally determined one thing to be good and another evil . .
The theological consequence has logically to be a belittling of grace which in turn could but end in a misconception of the very essence of Christianity . . .
The theological consequences of such thinking, in the direction of a radical ecclesiastical democracy, and the destruction of the properly understood mediative role of the priest, of logically followed through, are incalculable.
These consequences manifested themselves in Luther in various ways . . . in the modes of perception to which Luther constantly adhered (as exemplified in his attack on reason, in his imputation theory); they showed again in his assault on conservative Church theologians in questions of the Eucharist and the Mass.
(pp. 55-58)
Carl Braaten writes: “Against the nominalistic theology and indulgence piety of late medievalism, Luther placed his theology of the cross, his absolute trust in God’s grace, not in his own works; his reliance upon the Scriptures, not upon the opinions of the schoolmen, and his protest against superstition in low places and corruption in high places. Lortz said, the Roman Catholic Church must definitely be on the side of Luther.” [emphasis mine]

(Braaten, Mother Church p. 14-15)

But if we are to believe Joseph Lortz, whom you just cited, and whom Braaten cites, Luther, too, was adversely affected by corrupt nominalistic thought, so it is by no means agreed that he entirely opposed it. On the same page 14, Braaten also wrote: "Luther could now be interpreted in light of the conditions which produced him." As we saw above, Lortz regards Ockhamistic nominalism as a key influence on Luther. He was by no means alone. Luther biographer Roland Bainton agrees with this appraisal:
In the Protestant camp Luther's view was Occamism grown religiously vital. Faith was pitted even more violently against "the harlot reason," but faith was mightily sure of itself. Melanchthon and Zwingli, while toning down Luther, still held to the essential irrationality of faith.
(Studies on the Reformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963, 131)
So does Alister McGrath:
Luther's own theological development . . . can only be properly evaluated in light of the theological currents prevalent in the later Middle Ages. The tendency to regard the study of the theology of the later medieval period as serving as little more than a prologue to that of the Reformation has recently been reversed, with increasing emphasis being placed upon the importance of the later medieval period as a field of study in its own right. As a consequence, we . . . are thus in a favourable position to attempt an informed evaluation of Luther's initial relationship to this theology, and also the nature of his subsequent break with it.
Luther was not a man without beginnings, a mysterious and lonely figure of destiny who arrived at Wittenberg already in possession of the vera theologia which would take the church by storm, and usher in a new era in its history. Although it is tempting to believe that Luther suffered a devastating moment of illumination, in which he suddenly became conscious of the vera theologia and of his own divine mission to reform the church on its basis, all the evidence which we possess points to Luther's theological insights arising over a prolonged period at Wittenberg, under the influence of three main currents of thought: humanism, the 'nominalism' of the via moderna, and the theology of his own Augustinian Order . . .
. . . between 1509 and early 1514, Luther's theology in general, and his theology of justification in particular, was typical of the later medieval period. This suggestion is not, of course, new. In his celebrated critique of the reformer, Heinrich Denifle argued that Luther's rejection of catholic theology was ultimately a reflection upon the particular type of 'catholic' theology with which Luther was familiar. For Denifle, Luther was only familiar with the 'unsound' theology of the later medieval period, such as that of Gabriel Biel, and not with the catholic theology of St Thomas Aquinas or Bonaventure. Perhaps surprisingly, modern Luther scholarship has tended to endorse Denifle's judgment: whereas Luther frequently demonstrates first-hand knowledge of the writings of the leading theologians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, such as Pierre d'Ailly and Gabriel Biel, such knowledge is conspicuously absent in the case of earlier medieval theologians, such as St Thomas Aquinas. It must, of course, be pointed out that this is precisely what is to be expected, if Luther was educated within the via moderna, characterised by its logico-critical attitudes and an epistemological nominalism: the great theologians of the thirteenth century belonged to the via antiqua, characterised by an epistemological realism, from which Luther would have been taught to distance himself by his mentors at Erfurt . . .
Luther began his theological career at Wittenberg in 1512 steeped in both the methods and the presuppositions of late medieval theology . . . It must therefore be regarded as methodologically unacceptable to attempt to study Luther's theological development in isolation from, or with purely incidental reference to, this context . . .
. . . if Luther's difficulty [over justification] represented a problem which had been adequately discussed within the earlier western theological tradition, it remains to be explained why Luther appears to have been quite unaware if the established solutions to this problem. The answer given to this objection is substantially the same as that given to the charge of Heinrich Denifle -- that Luther had misrepresented the western theological tradition as a whole. According to Denifle, not a single writer in the western church, from Ambrosiaster to the time of Luther himself, understood iustitia Dei in the sense which Luther noted. Both objections are based upon the assumption that Luther was familiar with the earlier western theological tradition -- which, as we have emphasised earlier, appears not to have been the case. Luther is only familiar with the theology of the moderni, such as William of Ockham, Pierre d'Ailly and Gabriel Biel at first hand, and shows little familiarity with other theologians. Indeed, where such familiarity can be demonstrated, there are usually grounds for suspecting that he has encountered them indirectly, at second hand.
(Luther's Theology of the Cross, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1985, 25, 72-73, 103-104)
So does Louis Bouyer:
All the 'heresies' Protestantism may have fostered, far from being its creations . . . appear already to be taking shape in the nominalist thinkers before the Reformation. Whether we take the theory of extrinsic justification, or the completely subjectivist view of faith . . . or a conception of the Word of God that . . . opposes it to any ecclesiastical institution and makes it incomprehensible, and even incapable of formulation -- none of this is a Protestant innovation . . .
In such a system, God is only God in so far as he is beyond the true and the false, good and evil. Truth, falsehood, good, evil, are no more than hypotheses he has actually adopted; there is no reason why he should not have taken them in the contrary sense . . .
Our conclusion from this chapter is that the negative, 'heretical' aspect of the Reformation neither follows from its positive principles, nor is it a necessary consequence of their development or vindication, but appears simply as a survival, within Protestantism, of what was most vitiated and corrupt in the Catholic thought of the close of the Middle Ages . . .

This latter point, the utter corruption of Christian thought in nominalist theology, quite uncritically retained and applied by all the 'orthodox' Protestant thinkers, should by now be thoroughly clear.

(
The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, translated by A.V. Littledale, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1955, 161-164)
Catholic theology did not teach Pelagianism (needless to say), nor did it denigrate Scripture, as if "the schoolmen" were placed higher than Holy Writ.

Dr. Braaten seems to be expressing (surporisingly, given his profound ecumenism) at least some aspects of the populist historical myths about late medieval Catholicism (things noted and decried by no less than Alister McGrath). Many Protestant scholars would disagree that the Catholic Church denigrated Scripture, over against the Bible-soaked early Protestants:
There was never a time in the history of the western Church during the 'Dark' or 'Middle' Ages when the Scriptures were officially demoted. On the contrary, they were considered infallible and inerrant, and were held in the highest honour.

(Peter Toon,
Protestants and Catholics, Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1983, 39)

The view expressed by Augustine was the view the Roman Catholic Church believed, taught, and propagated through the centuries . . . It can be said that the Roman church for more than a thousand years accepted the doctrine of infallibility of all Scripture . . . The church has always (via Fathers, theologians, and popes) taught biblical inerrancy . . . The Roman church held to a view of Scripture that was no different from that held by the Reformers.

(
The Battle For the Bible, Harold Lindsell, former editor of Christianity Today, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976, 54-56; after quoting 19 eminent Church fathers to the effect that Scripture is infallible and held in the highest regard)

You cite Louis Bouyer (quite selectively) in your favor below. Here is what he writes about medieval Catholic love for the Bible:
In the same way that Popes, Councils, theologians, always resorted to the scriptural argument as the really fundamental one, the practice of the great spiritual writers of every epoch attests the fully traditional character of a devotion based on the Bible . . . The same is true of the great teachers of the Middle Ages . . . Not only did they know the Bible and make abundant use of it, but they moved in it as in a spiritual world that formed the habitual universe of all their thoughts and sentiments. For them, it was not simply one source among others, but the source par excellence, in a sense the only one . . .

What in fact was for so many monks the most important of their religious practices, the one which virtually contained all the others? It was what the Benedictine rule, which only codified in this the practice of the sixth century, called the 'lectio divina.' This 'lectio,'. . . was nourished exclusively on the Bible . . .

Not only with the approval of the hierarchy but by the positive and emphatic insistence of the Pope himself, there has come about a general return to the close study of Scripture, which has been restored, not only as the base, but as the source, of all teaching of theology.

(Bouyer, ibid., 133-134)
In a review of the book by Carl Braaten that you cite above, by Michael Kinnamon (Christian Century, Feb. 3, 1999), the writer states:
Braaten encourages Lutherans (and other Protestants) to recognize that the reunited church of the future should include both bishops in apostolic succession and the papacy. These offices, he argues, can give visible expression to unity and serve as signs of continuity in the faith. Not all Lutherans will be pleased with this conclusion.
These were hardly characteristic traits of early Lutheranism (nor of LCMS). They specifically sent the bishops packing, by stealing their churches and monasteries, and opting for princes to rule the Church instead. The pope was regarded as anti-Christ (as both you and Pastor Maton have reiterated in your responses). Popes and bishops alike were subjected to vulgar woodcuts; some depicted bishops being hanged and their tongues torn out. Apostolic succession, as previously known from the beginning of the Church, was ditched.

Braaten includes other Catholic voices. I list them briefly:
Johannes Hessen – “the message of the Reformation must still be heard today.”

I know nothing of him, and so will pass.

Karl Adam – “all who are serious about ecumenical dialog must go back to Luther himself. The gulf can be bridged only after we retrace our steps and gain a real understanding on where both sides went wrong. [emphasis mine]

Yes, absolutely. That's true. Each side must 1) understand the other, 2) know the basic historical facts, as ascertained by historiographical consensus across party lines, 3) admit wrongs where necessary, and 4) exhibit a spirit of hopeful good will. But as we saw above. Adam rejects what Luther's "solution" was, by writing (after acknowledging Luther's many praiseworthy qualities):
But -- and here lies the tragedy of the Reformation . . .-- he let the warring spirits drive him to overthrow not merely the abuses in the Church, but the Church Herself . . . what St. Augustine calls the greatest sin . . . he set up altar against altar and tore in pieces the one Body of Christ. . . . The longer the strife continued . . . the confusion in his eyes between the abuses in the Church and the essence of the Church increased; . . . It was not ecclesiastical abuses that made him the opponent of the Catholic Church, but the conviction that she was teaching falsely. And this conviction dates from long before the fatal 17th October, 1517.
Yves Congar – “Luther must be seen in one long line of Reformers in the Church.”

Braaten continues: “According to Congar, Luther addressed a question that the church at that time was in no position to answer, and which it still has never answered in a serious way. Certainly excommunication was no answer to the kind of legitimate questions Luther was asking. Certainly the Council of Trent’s response was not to Luther’s basic intention and meaning, but only to some of the extreme inferences that his disciples drew from his teachings. (emphasis added)

I'd have to see the context of these remarks to comment further. There is a sense in which Luther was in a long line of reformers. Adam acknowledges that, but he condemns the radical solution of schism that Luther adopted. According to Adam, the theological differences didn't simply come about in the heat of battle, but were present before Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Many Protestant try to deny this, but I think the facts contradict them. One can study, for example, Luther's early commentaries on Romans and Galatians, and see his Protestant theology developing clearly.

Father Louis Bouyer even more emphatically than any of the others, proposed the thesis that the positive principles of the Reformation were not an attack upon Catholic faith and doctrine but were truly at home in the Catholic Church. (emphasis added).


That's right. But in his book, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism (translated by A.V. Littledale, Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1955), -- I read it in 1990 and was profoundly influenced by it --, Bouyer devotes 17 pages to a chapter entitled "The Positive Principles of the Reformation." In the middle chapters he mostly shows how these positive principles are reiterations of previous Catholic tradition and dogmatic theology. But from pages 136 to 177 he writes about "The Negative Elements of the Reformation" and "The Decay of the Positive Principles of the Reformation." Braaten mentions this other aspect:
Bouyer saw the Reformation as particularly tragic because, to the extent that the Protestants drew false and heretical inferences from those positive principles, the Catholics were driven to oppose the principles, and thereby, lost much of the good with the bad.
(Mother Church, 16)
Here is a sampling of Bouyer's thought:
[T]he Lutheran sola gratia . . . this assertion . . . is a genuinely Christian one, and fully in accord, of course, with Catholic tradition properly understood . . . Luther's basic intuition, on which Protestantism continuously draws for its abiding vitality, so far from being hard to reconcile with Catholic tradition, or inconsistent with the teaching of the Apostles, was a return to the clearest elements of their teaching, and is in the most direct line of that tradition . . .
. . . . by the very logic of its nature, it should have initiated in the Church itself a powerful movement of regeneration . . . Unfortunately, that is not what happened, though the blame, in any case, does not lie exclusively with the basic principle of the Reformation. Considered in itself, and in the natural course of its development, it does not lead to division and error. These are only the accidental results of the Reformation . . . the schisms and heresies of the sixteenth century resulted, not from its initial impulse, but from external and adventitious factors which disturbed its development.
. . . the negative, 'heretical' aspect of the Reformation neither follows from its positive principles, nor is it a necessary consequence of their development or vindication, but appears simply as a survival, within Protestantism, of what was most vitiated and corrupt in the Catholic thought of the close of the Middle Ages . . . What the Reformation took over from the Middle Ages was just what it should have criticised and rejected; in fact it led the positive principles the Reformers had brought to light to assume a negative and polemical aspect . . .
(pp. 43-44, 164, 166)
Does Bouyer give the Protestants a pass in terms of responsibility and blame for schism? Hardly. Let's observe some more of his words:
[H]ow could a movement, starting from such principles, create a schism, turn aside form the Catholic tradition, set up over against the Church a multiplicity of 'Churches', very often as hostile to one another as to Catholicism? . . . to set up a Christianity disrupted from tradition, and to injure and attack of set purpose the Church it had wished to renew?

. . . with these [positive] principles were associated others that the Church could not accept . . .

(pp. 136-137)
Bouyer notes, for example, the radical dichotomy involved in sola Scriptura:
[W]e notice, at the very outset of Protestantism, the tendency to equate it [supreme authority of Scripture] with an absolute denial of the authority of the Church, whether manifested in tradition or in particular decisions of her magisterium.

(p. 141)
He makes a host of scathing criticisms of Protestantism throughout the book:
In point of fact, the Reformers, though desirous of accentuating the divine, transcendent, aspect of Christianity, promoted more than anyone else the development of humanism and, in particular, the religious individualism of modern times. (p. 97)

Three different possibilities were open to Protestant organisations, once the rupture with the Church of tradition was accomplished. Either, as with the Anabaptists at first, or later with the Quakers, the rejection of all visible authority, resulting in an absolute, anarchical individualism; or else, as in the Lutheran reaction, the handing over to the civil authority of the organisation and direction of the Church; or, as in Calvinism and the sects following and opposed to it, the artificial construction of a new Church, created in all its elements by the genius (or fantasy) of an individual . . . In the three cases, the result was the same; in the place of divine authority in the Church Protestantism set up purely human ones, with the inevitable consequence of an enslavement of man to man, stifling the idea of personal religion and Christian liberty. (p. 212)
The final result is that the Protestant who seeks, in his Church, food for his faith finds it only in the form of a total subjection to all the peculiarities, the momentary idiosyncrasies, of his minister's personal devotion. (p. 216)

From the moment of their creation, the Protestant Churches were merely the works of man. In so far as they manage to attain any authority at all, it is always the authority of a man, either of a founder or organiser or of a simple minister, and, if that fails, they break up into fragments, to the sole profit of the authority of each individual, his private views, tendencies or experiences. (p. 218)

I probably should include an obscure name like (then) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who nearly 50 years ago reflected the same spirit as some of these other voices. He wrote these words:
“There is no appropriate category in Catholic thought for the phenomenon of Protestantism today (one could say the same of the separated churches of the East). It is obvious that the old category of “heresy” is no longer of any value. Heresy, for Scripture and the early church, includes the idea of a personal decision against the early church, and heresy’s characteristic is pertinacia, the obstinacy of the one who persists in his or her own private way. This, however, cannot be regarded as an appropriate description of the Protestant Christian. In the course of a now centuries old history, Protestantism has made an important contribution to the realization of Christian faith, fulfilling a positive development of the Christian message, and above all, often giving rise to a sincere and profound faith in the individual non-Catholic Christian.”

(Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Meaning of the Christian Brotherhood, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), pp. 87-88)
One only wonders whether Pope Benedict still maintains these sentiments and whether he realizes that Luther resisted the errors of his day as a loyal son of the Church.

Yes, of course he does. This is standard Vatican II ecumenism. Pope Benedict XVI is no different from Pope John Paul II. They are both eminently men of that council, and committed ecumenists. I'm very fond of it also. I have cited Pope Benedict, for example, saying that the Tridentine anathemas do not apply to present-day Protestants in many cases.

This is a small sampling of Roman Catholic theologians and leaders who are interested in digging into the deeper heart of the Reformation. I believe this presents a spirit of honesty and integrity in a debate that has been and should be held in earnest.

I'm all in favor of open and honest and congenial discussion. I think even heartfelt differences can be discussed in such a manner, and constructively so. I hope and pray that I am doing that right now. Honest discussion doesn't sweep things under the rug simply because they are controversial. If we all truly respect each other as brothers and sisters in Christ (and especially in the context of warm personal friendship), we ought to be able to frankly discuss any theological topic, and to be able to take criticism without becoming angry, defensive, or insecure.

However, there is a tendency in the contemporary conversion books where Protestants of different stripes talk about “coming home” to present Lutheranism in the worst possible light while they present their own position in the best. One is certainly free to do this, of course, but it does not lead to honest and balanced discussion which leads to truth.

I think that tendency can be there, yes, in any kind of conversion story. It is human nature, unfortunately, to exaggerate the deficiencies of the belief-system we have left and to build up the positive attributes of our newfound belief. I do my best to be as fair as I can to both Lutherans and Martin Luther (and have defended Luther against some common misconceptions, many times; also John Calvin). This is precisely why I seek to dialogue with passionate proponents of other Christian traditions, so that I can hear their case, rather than a second-hand, biased presentation from a critic. And so I gratefully thank you and Pastor Maton again for this wonderful opportunity to dialogue and better understand and appreciate each other.

It has this air of “win the argument at any cost.” The example that David uses was Luther’s letter to Hans Wurst. This was a prime example of using a highly eclectic method of selecting quotes that represent a one sided view of what Luther actually said and seemingly avoiding what he said in context. (Pastor Maton will address this in his contribution to the dialog)

And I replied to Pastor Maton on this point. But I deny that I am guilty of selective presentation. I found difficulties in Luther's position on ecclesiology. I admitted plainly that I saw two different strains in his thought. Pastor Maton elaborated upon the more positive strain, for which I am grateful. I continue, however, to find it contradictory to some extent. But whatever Luther's and Lutherans' position on the Church, it remains true in any event, that they have redefined the Church, by the criterion of previous Catholic tradition. They have rejected Church authority, by denying that popes and councils can be infallible. This has to be defended from the Bible and authentic apostolic tradition, not just based on corruption in the 16th century. Moreover, Lutherans claim to be the theological descendants of the Church fathers. But this is quite difficult to prove in many areas. It's easy to make the assertion; far more difficult to prove it with hard facts of patristic utterances. That is where any discussion of "development from the fathers" must eventually go.

The point of this opening set of remarks is to simply point out that Lutherans who are in earnest join readily with Roman Catholics who are doing the same in appreciating deeply each other’s raison de tre if you will. In so doing, the most sublime discussions are being conducted at a level of looking most favorably towards the very obvious progress that is being made by theologians in both camps.


I have no problem with that at all. In fact, I think I was very much along this line of thought in the latter part of my previous response, where I sought common ground in the area of the Eucharist and sacrifice of the mass.

The position of “we are the one true church on earth and all other communions are wrong” is just not helpful to this progress. I’m sure that our opponents are going to point out that this is exactly what Pope Benedict said this past summer. But again, Lutherans view themselves as catholic in the very best sense.

Well, then, we ought to agree that if there truly is one true Church (the catholic or Catholic Church), and Lutherans and Catholics both claim to be the best embodiment of that Church, then it is not arrogant for someone to simply have an ecclesiology whereby there is one Church and one Church only. That's part of honest, open discussion. We all have to decide the nature of said Church and where it can be found in a concrete, historical, institutional sense. We Catholics don't speak in terms of "all other communions are wrong." We speak in terms of "we rejoice in truth wherever it is found, and it can be found in great quantity in Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and also in non-Christian religions."

This latter point gets back to the original point in our first letter. Luther nor his opponents would have recognized Johnny’s question. This was not addressed in Dave Armstrong’s response. To repeat, the both parties saw total continuity with the Apostolic and Patristic periods. There was no “protestant consciousness” of breaking away from, or concluding that Rome was a false church.

Well, there wasn't at first, but it soon (sadly) developed. I agree with Louis Bouyer's and Karl Adam's and Joseph Lortz's analyses. Moreover, much of Lutheranism today (as you must know) is plagued by a denominationalism that has not the slightest desire to ever unite with Rome.

Now to David’s point of recalling Luther stating in the Smalcald Articles that “we do not concede to them that they are the Church, and frankly, they are not the Church.” When one looks in context, the emphasis is in the wrong place. It is not upon the noun, but upon the pronoun. It is not on the “Church” but upon the “they!” And the “they” in question is the papacy.

Looking over the section of the Smalcald Articles in question, and the context, I don't see how you deduce that Luther is talking about the papacy. In trying to determine by prior paragraphs to whom he is referring as "they", I couldn't find direct mention of the papacy. What is mentioned (in X, 1-2) is "bishops" so that Luther's "they" afterwards seems to refer to them.

So if bishops aren't essential to the Church (and we know that Luther got rid of them: which even Melanchthon later bitterly regretted; and you have none in the LCMS, unless I am mistaken), why does Carl Braaten think that they are, along with apostolic succession, and even the papacy? If he is advocating a true Lutheran catholicism or Catholic Lutheranism, and those things are part and parcel to it, then obviously Luther forsook them early on, and half of my point about his rejecting the traditional doctrine of the Church is established.
To David’s point that Luther made “many such statements” is about as unfair as one can get. Luther said of the Church such things of the church as “I embrace the church, the communion of saints, as my holy mother, and in a conscious act of faith, I make my own all the spiritual blessings that the church represents.” I will not tire out the reader by listing all of the high regard Luther has for the Church. The reader is urged instead to take glimpse at the volume What Luther Says under the heading “Church.” This would be a fair approach and our case is firmly established.

He did say those things (I haven't denied this; indeed, I have cited similar things myself, in the past), but I am still not convinced that he didn't contradict himself. If the numerous comments in Wider Hans Wurst are all taken out of context by myself and misunderstood, then what about On the Councils and the Church: a 170-page treatise in my old 1931 Philadelphia edition of Luther's Works? Is that also a false representation of Luther's beliefs, from 1539, seven years before his death?

Translator Charles M. Jacobs states in his introduction: "
All the hopes for a reformation of the Church, such as he had envisioned in 1520, have disappeared." Of course, he can simply redefine the Church as Lutheranism in some sense, over against the existing Catholic institution. But then he has separated himself from historical Christianity if he does that, which amounts to an Anabaptist position.

You and Pastor Maton argue that he is mainly or only referring to the papacy. But Luther wrote:
Thus the pope, with his followers, refuses to hold a council and will neither reform the Church nor contribute advice or assistance to a reformation, but would defend his tyranny by force, and let the Church be destroyed. Therefore we, whom the pope has so sadly deserted, can do nothing else than go elsewhere for advice and help, and begin by seeking and praying for a reformation from our Lord Christ. For because of these abandoned tyrants, who compel us to despair of a council and a reformation, we must not despair of Christ, or leave the Church without advice or help; but we must do what we can, and let them go to the devil, as they desire. (pp. 133-134)

But the pope and his followers now declare that the Church must go to death for them, so that they may continue in their tyranny, idolatry, knavery, and all rascality . . . Now who could guess that these lords had such great power that the Church and Christ and God Himself must so easily go down before their threats? (p. 134)

The pope . . . he and his will let the Church be destroyed. Thus he has turned himself out of the Church . . . we are the Church, or in the Church, which the papists would let go to destruction in order that they may remain. But we, too, would like to remain and do not intend to go down so miserably, with our Lord Christ and His Father, the God of us all, before the defiance of the papists. (pp. 135-136)

One who heard the words "Christian, holy people" would have been able to decide off-hand, "The pope is not a people, still less a holy Christian people." So, too, the bishops, priests, and monks are not a holy Christian people, for they do not believe in Christ, do not lead holy lives, and are the devil's wicked, shameful people. He who does not rightly believe in Christ, is not Christian or a Christian, and he who has not the Holy Ghost to resist sin, is not holy. Therefore they cannot be a Christian, holy people, that is sancta et catholica ecclesia. (p. 265)
I continue to believe that Luther's position on this is internally inconsistent and incoherent, but on the other hand, I accept whatever little "good news" can be had from Luther experts. In the end, I think Luther biographer Martin Brecht expresses well Luther's highly ambivalent attitude towards the historic Catholic Church:
Luther did not dispute at all that the true marks of the church were also to be found among the Catholics and that the evangelicals had received them from the Catholics, but he accused the papists of having apostatized. The bride of Christ, like the old Israel, had become a whore. Nevertheless, God had preserved a remnant as his people. The leadership of the church had turned into the Antichrist that presumed to set up new regulations.

(Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church: 1532-1546, translated by James L. Schaaf, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993; paperback edition of 1999, 220)
Needless to say, it is not particularly comforting to a Catholic to learn that our Church is a "whore" etc., while Luther is gracious enough to allow us to retain the marks of the Church.


The key (and we concede that we could have been much clearer), is to argue that the papacy, NOT the Church was what Luther attacked in his day.

I think that is a bit simplistic, based on the material I have produced. It's true that Luther doesn't often single out Joe Q. Papist, but he certainly condemns bishops, monks, nuns, priests en masse and often speaks in plural terms, not just of the pope or office of the papacy. What does "papists" mean, anyway? It means "one who is a Catholic," and that includes laypeople. Furthermore, if the Catholic Church supposedly apostatized (as Brecht says Luther thought), and an individual Catholic like myself agrees with all that it teaches, then it follows inexorably that I must partake of the very same apostatizing error.

Therefore, all consistent Catholics have apostatized along with the wicked antichrist popes. I don't see how the contrary is even arguable. Hence, we commonly hear Protestants say that if a Catholic is saved, it will be in spite of what the Catholic Church teaches, not because of it. In other words, to be a good Christian, one has to be a "bad [i.e., inconsistent, pick-and-choose] Catholic", and to be a good, orthodox, faithful Catholic is inevitably to be a bad Christian, or none at all. That's not a particularly ecumenical attitude, is it?

And for a Roman Catholic to disagree with this, they would have to first take on some fellow Roman Catholics of some pretty sizable stature before they take on us, as I have mentioned a few of these names above.

And I have shown that in many of those cases where I had read their works, the entire truth of what they believed is far more complex and nuanced.

The series of quotes that Armstrong makes only proves this point as the “they” that Luther writes about are continuously the “papists,” not the rank and file in Catholic Christendom.

Not always, but I grant that probably most of the time, this is what Luther had in mind. Even if so, however, what difference does it rally make, as any Catholic who accepts the papacy and what that office teaches, partakes of the same error, and therefore must be in the same apostate boat. Is this difficult to grasp or something? I see it as a no-brainer . . .
Dave Armstrong makes the rather clever move of trying to demonstrate that if this distinction were true, why did Lutherans attack the “sacrifice of the Mass?” The rationale here is that Lutherans cannot seriously say that they are only attacking the papacy, but the very core of what it means to be Roman Catholic. We will respond to the Mass issue in due time, but we are starting to accumulate too many things at once.

Good. I look forward to that. I think I made a very ecumenical, conciliatory beginning for that topic in my last paper.


An important discussion needs to take place regarding the Church Fathers. Lutherans regard the Fathers of the Church very highly. A mistake, however, is to assume that the Fathers carry the weight of the Apostles. When we asked the question, “At what point is the Augsburg Confession not catholic or Apostolic?” we received the response that “it [The Augsburg Confession] wasn’t a true presentation of catholic patristic doctrine concerning the sacrifice of the mass….”

Our question was how is the AC not apostolic? Our question was NOT, “how is the AC not patristic?

Fair enough. I may not have properly answered that particular question, but recourse to the fathers was still relevant in the larger discussion because Lutheranism claims to have a closer relation to patristic consensus than Catholicism does. However, there was ambiguity in the question itself (and your present interpretation of it), because it wasn't just asking for apostolicity, but also catholicity, and it seems to me that that element of "universal" requires delving into the fathers (which is why I did so). In fact, it necessarily does, because catholicity could not have yet been present in the apostles. There wasn't enough time for Christianity to have spread; to have any chance of yet being "catholic."
Armstrong successfully shows where the AC is not in agreement with various fathers of the church in sundry places. Perhaps this point needs to be cleared up. Because a Church Father says something in the third century, does not make his statement, orthodox, correct, or even worthy of consideration.

No one is claiming that it does, in and of itself. The Church fathers are important only insofar as they reflect (and that, en masse, not individually) the consensus of the early Church on doctrine. The consensus and the creeds and councils are what is important, and both sides agree on that (at least for the earliest councils, up to Chalcedon in 451, at the very least). The Councils and the Apostolic See in Rome reign supreme in matters of determining early orthodoxy, not individual fathers.

The real question is this. Does the recorded sayings, teachings, or writings of the Church fathers square with the Apostolic witness? The answer to that question is - yes, sometimes, and perhaps many times. But certainly not at all times!

We agree, if it is put in those terms. Yet there is a consensus and an orthodoxy among fathers and even among the laypeople of the Church as a whole (sensus fidelium), that is, we believe in faith, guaranteed by God.


The Church fathers were not the eyewitnesses inspired by the Holy Spirit to bring forth the continued revelation of sacred Scripture in the New Testament. (II Peter 1:21) as the prophets did in the Old Testament.

I specialize in biblical arguments in favor of Catholic beliefs. I would be all too delighted to move onto that playing ground. I was asked for apostolic evidences for indulgences, and responded with biblical argumentation, which was entirely passed over.


The usual accusation here from Roman Catholics is that Lutherans conveniently agree with the Fathers when it suits their purposes to do so and disavow them when it is not so convenient. No, there is no issue of “convenience” here at all. It is a matter of methodology based upon consistency and the very witness of the Apostles themselves. (I Thessalonians 2:13). When Paul distinguishes between the Word of God and the words of men, he certainly presumes that his hearers are capable of realizing that there is indeed a difference between the two.

I was only going by the claims of Lutherans themselves to follow patristic teachings (i.e., an historical rather than dogmatic claim). I just finished compiling a book about patristic beliefs that support Catholicism and contradict Protestantism. I cited Martin Chemnitz in the introduction:

And we confess that we are greatly confirmed by the testimonies of the ancient church in the true and sound understanding of the Scripture. Nor do we approve of it if someone invents for himself a meaning which conflicts with all antiquity, and for which there are clearly no testimonies of the church.

(Examination of the Council of Trent, Part I, translated by Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, 208-209)

[W]e love and value greatly the true and sound interpretations which agree with the rules which we have quoted from the fathers.
(Ibid., 211)

It is undeniably the truest of axioms that that alone is the true doctrine which the apostles transmitted and which the primitive church professed as received from the apostles.
(Ibid., 225)

I am challenging Lutherans to put their money where their mouth is. If they claim that the fathers support their theology rather than ours, then I'd like to see it. Consequently, I've engaged in many debates with Lutherans (one I have enjoyed "sparring" with a lot is a history professor) and others about various Church fathers and what they actually taught.
Now granted, many Protestants falsely draw a wedge between the Apostolic and Patristic eras. The cults and sects disavow the legitimacy of anything patristic, including the ecumenical creeds. Lutherans who understand what true catholicity is, would never make that move.

Yes. Thanks, too, for bolstering a point I made above: that when you referred to "catholic" (as well as apostolic) indications, you were referring to the fathers.


What we do say, however, is this. Where the Church Fathers adhered to the Apostolic witness and rule of faith, particularly in the Ecumenical Councils, and particularly in the emerging ecumenical creeds, then the Church fathers should be admired, heard, quoted, believed, and regarded as confessors and teachers of the truth etc.

St. Athanasius on the doctrine of the Trinity is completely and wonderfully orthodox. Irenaeus in his battles against Gnosticism was most completely orthodox. St. Ambrose, St. Augustine. Cyprian, Jerome, etc. all had marvelous and gifted insights and should be read voraciously. The ecumenical creeds themselves were based squarely on the criteria of apostolicity. The criteria for the Church’s assembly of the canon was based squarely upon the criteria of apostolicity. Even the earliest of documents like the Didache could declare “We are in communion with the apostolic churches. There is no difference of doctrine…”

However when the fathers for example, moralize about how Christians should adorn themselves, issue rules about jewelry, or instructions about how Christians are to conduct themselves in the bath houses of Ephesus, or when Tertullian, for example, teaches chiliasm, and glossolalia, or when Eusebius presents a somewhat hagiographic account of the deeds of the saints in his Ecclesiastical History, we are not to regard any of this binding upon the conscience or things that must be adhered to in the interest of the tradition of the church. Because they were not apostles, these writings should not be binding to anyone’s conscience.

Amen! That's what we believe, too.

To say that the Church Fathers should never be questioned or that they were never wrong is ludicrous.

Indeed it is.

Perhaps I am overstating our opponents’ claim here a bit.

I should think so. I'd like to see you produce even one reputable (orthodox) Catholic theologian, pope, bishop, apologist, scholar who would state such a ridiculous thing.

But from what we have been hearing thus far from both Johnny and David is that the Church Fathers should be regarded with equal weight as the Apostles?

Who ever stated that? Certainly not I.



We may be wrong in this assertion. But so far the debate has been one of “The fathers said this or that!” In some instances - great! In others, no! By no means!”

I find this curious, since you and Pastor Maton initiated the discussion of the fathers yourselves, by writing:
Where are the words of the AC [Augsburg Confession, for our readers] not catholic or apostolic? On the other hand, where is the sale of Indulgences for example, or the popular practice of the day to gaze at relics anywhere a part of the apostolic tradition? Where do we see any support for Indulgences among the writings of the Church Fathers, even those most sympathetic to legitimizing the papacy? Clearly, the AC is a true presentation of the doctrine of the blessed apostles.
As explained above, the word "catholic" necessarily implies an examination of the fathers' views. You asked about where it wasn't apostolic and "catholic". And so I delved into that issue, using the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass as a counter-example of the alleged "catholicity" of AC, because I have several times before with Lutherans and had the material ready at hand. I was simply responding to your challenge, but now you act as if I have been guilty of going off-subject. Well, if answering direct questions means "off-topic" then I am guilty as charged (though rather proudly so!). I have a bad habit of responding to challenges. I'll try to refrain from doing so in the future if you don't care for that. :-)

You asked specifically about patristic support for Indulgences and I did ya one better: going right to the Bible (i.e., apostolic support). Now, it is true that I gave patristic support for relics (and Augustine is
very explicit about that in The City of God), when you asked specifically for apostolic support. Mea culpa. But I provided the latter, too, by referring you to my biblical paper on that issue. So I have provided answers for your challenges all down the line, whereas you have often passed over mine without comment.

My digression into the issue of the sacrifice of the mass may have been unduly long (because I have this odd habit of liking to properly
document facts), but it was not off-topic, because I was challenged to produce a counter-example and I did so. Now your burden is to defend the AC and Lutheranism on that score. I say you cannot. You have to maintain that patristic consensus was wildly and almost universally wrong and that Lutheranism is right, and that is neither plausible under Christian historical assumptions, or Lutheranism's own claims regarding extraordinary patristic support over against Catholicism.
I see this issue also in a manner that history has almost repeated itself in the heilsgeschischte of the Biblical narrative from Old Testament to New. God gave Moses what we have come to call the “Ten Commandments.” These were one of the great hallmarks of God’s revelation to Israel. During the intertestamental period, there was a tremendous development of oral tradition and interpretation developed in the rabbinic schools and eventually codified in the Talmud. By the time we get to the first century, we note that the oral tradition dominated the theological landscape. It was this that Jesus opposes rather harshly. One New Testament scholar, William Lane writes in his commentary on Mark 7:1-10: “Theoretically, the oral law was a fence which safeguarded the people from infringing the [Mosaic] law."
[William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), pp. 248-9]
In other words it was thought that if the people observed the oral law, they would be fenced in adequately so as to not break the Law of Moses. As benevolent a motive as that might have been, the point was that the oral tradition actually replaced the Law of Moses. It is to this that Jesus says “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9).


I would say you have it exactly backwards. The oral tradition was acknowledged by Jesus and the apostles and was the belief of the most orthodox Jewish party (the Pharisees) from which Christianity developed. It was the "liberal" Sadducees who denounced oral tradition (along with other doctrines such as the resurrection), and seemed to hold to "Bible alone". But they are never called
Christians in Scripture, whereas the Pharisees are (Paul called himself one, and Jesus observed many Pharisaical customs). The Jews in the Old Testament, of course, accepted oral tradition as part and parcel of the Mosaic Law, and did not believe in any form of sola Scriptura. I argued this at length, with many biblical examples, in my (now archived) paper, "Dialogue: The Old Testament, the Jews, and Sola Scriptura."
I see the same exact parallel in the development of scholastic theology over the centuries. By the time we get to the thirteenth century, the accretions to the liturgy, the almost exclusive concern for what the fathers of the church were saying etc. almost rendered the apostolic rule of faith null and void. By the time of the Reformation, we see a rediscovery of that rule of faith, a rediscovery of the Gospel, and a renewal, as my colleague, Pastor Maton will remind us in these debates, of preaching of the Gospel of Christ.

I think this is a caricature of the methods of the Scholastics (especially the early and best ones like St. Thomas Aquinas: his writings are soaked in Scripture). You seem to have picked up Luther's antipathy to Scholasticism. But he didn't even understand them, as McGrath noted above ("
whereas Luther frequently demonstrates first-hand knowledge of the writings of the leading theologians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, such as Pierre d'Ailly and Gabriel Biel, such knowledge is conspicuously absent in the case of earlier medieval theologians, such as St Thomas Aquinas").
So if we were to draw an analogy to early and late Judaism, to the Law of Moses and the oral tradition, then we would note that early (Apostolic) Christianity gave way to later accretions and the development of an “oral tradition” of its own that honored the church fathers to the exclusion (almost) of the Apostles, the Gospel, and the Scriptures. This is no doubt overstating the case a bit. But it makes the overall point that Luther had a high regard for tradition except when it stepped in the way of the Gospel as the oral law did with the law of Moses.

I think further discussion of this is better left for future discussions, as it is a huge topic. I've written more on the Bible and its relationship to tradition and Church than on any other topic, and am more than adequately equipped to take on that topic at any time. Suffice it to say that this is standard boilerplate Protestant polemics against Catholicism, that leaves much to be desired. In the movie Luther, for example, which I critiqued at length, it was implied that German Bible translations was some new idea that originated with Luther. In fact, there had been fourteen German versions from the time of the advent of the printing press till Luther's time.

Must we always agree with all of the Fathers of the church? If the answer is “yes,” then by what criteria?


The answer is "no." We must agree with the magisterial pronouncements and unbroken apostolic tradition of the Church (as Luther himself asserts) and with the Bible.


We must respectfully disagree that Tradition and Scripture are never in opposition as Armstrong tries to insist.

Where, pray tell, do I ever assert this? It is the exact opposite of what I believe, which is that any valid, legitimate, apostolic tradition must be in harmony with Holy Scripture, and indeed, could not fail to be.
Even the Apostles themselves were not immune from scrutiny. St. Paul himself was regarded as one whose authority could be tested. (Acts 17:11). Are we to presume that the Bereans were out of order for checking out Paul’s teachings with the Scriptures? Do not misunderstand. We do not believe that Paul’s writings could have been found to be in error. But that does not preclude the possibility of verification. If so with Paul – certainly so with the Fathers.

Certainly. For this reason, the Catholic Church has held that St. Augustine was wrong on some predestination issues. We even say that our foremost theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, was wrong concerning the Immaculate Conception. No one or no thing is infallible except for Scripture, popes in limited conditions, and ecumenical councils in agreement with popes.

In all of this, I have not even brought up the fact that the theological differences between the Fathers themselves resulted in disagreements over what was orthodox teachings on certain matters. Take the filioque debate for example. East and West still to this very day disagree on this article of faith in the articulation of the Nicene Creed.

Yes, but what gets neglected is that what became Orthodox belief was based largely on later speculations postdating the fathers (e.g., "innovative" the pneumatology of Photius in the 9th century).
The leading eastern fathers did not contradict the current western understanding of filioque: e.g., Athanasius, Epiphanius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa and John Damascene. This was not a patristic difference at all. It only became a big issue after the time of Photius.


Oh, and that slight matter of a certain schism in 1054 A.D. I know that both sides East and West were certain that they had the truth with regards to the doctrine of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. But even to say this makes our point, namely that tradition must be subsumed to the authority of the Apostolic witness.

I've made my historical argument as to the implausibility of an Orthodox apostolicity that excludes Catholic apostolicity. I'd love to see an Orthodox counter-argument. None has been suggested to me yet, and that paper of mine has been around some ten years. I'm not saying there is no such argument; only that I have never even seen an attempted rebuttal over those ten years. And so, like most folks, I hold an opinion unless and until I see something better. If no alternative presents itself at all, why should I change my opinion?

Besides, "playing the Orthodox card" does the Lutheran case no good whatsoever. It must stand on its own. The Orthodox are far closer to us than to you, and in high level talks have, apparently, just accepted the notion of the primacy of the pope in the early centuries. Now, fine points of that are another question, but they wouldn't even admit
that much until now. We continue to argue what we always have: that papal primacy is rather obvious in the early centuries.


I bring my contribution #2 to a close and defer to Pastor Maton to make his several points in response to Armstrong’s response #1. In conclusion, we do not see Luther as having broken from what he perceived to be a false church. He was a loyal son of the Church and wished for his reforms to take place. The Augsburg Confession is Apostolic, and proffers the first definition of the Church (Article VII), since the Fathers confessed the Church as “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

Thank you very much for your time. I look forward, as always, to future installments. God bless both you and Pastor Maton in your ministry and service to God and your flocks.