Apologetics in Action: To Londy, On the Authority of the Reformation

Original Post and Comment

My new comments will be in red and italicized in an effort to maintian the llondy’s formatting so as to show full context.

Good luck reading and following. As usual, those wishing to offer feedback and/or suggestions are always welcome. Enjoy:

My Catholic friend’s comments will be in italics. I do have many Catholic friends that I can discuss these issues with in a cordial manner and I hope this continues to be the case. [Most certainly.]

Anyway, a couple of comments were presented one from a self-proclaimed atheist and a person who appears to be a Protestant seeking to bring me to the Fullness of Truth. In doing so, this individual exposed the own truth behind the heretical basis of Protestantism, that is to say the sin of pride. Protestant reformers sought to conform the Church to what they conceived in their minds as truth. Yet each person is subject to the truth in relation to their lived experience and thus there is a potential to either negate the validity of the experiences of others or embrace the so-called validity of all (usually at the expense of one that unites the rest) – this is what I call relativism.
In any event, I will strive to give more of an explanation to address the first comment post from this person and, in light of my com-box reply, seek to address the issues pointed out in the second comment post.

I am a Protestant, however there is nothing heretical about the Reformed position at all. It seeks to be as Biblical as possible where it is Catholicism that steps outside the Bible and claims external authority. Protestant reformers attempted to reform the Roman Catholic Church according to the Bible and not their own minds. There is nothing relativist about what they did either, I assumed being a devout Catholic that your understanding of the Protestant Reformation would be a little sharper. I would expect for you to disagree with it, but not to completely misunderstand it.


Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Image via Wikipedia.

[Again, this line of thought is already begins with an erroneous view of history and Church roles. First, let us define heresy (from Dictionary.com):

  1. opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, esp. of a church or religious system.
  2. the maintaining of such an opinion or doctrine.
  3. Roman Catholic Church: the willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church.
  4. any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.

In each of these four definitions or types, the understanding of the word is clear. A heretical view is one that is opposition to orthodox, established views. In the context of Christian theology, Protestant reformers, much like earlier heretics, refused to accept various dogmatic teachings of the Christian faith including the authority of the Church, the Canonicity of Scripture and the interpretations therein. It is important to point out, however, that Protestants today, while technically maintaining heretical views, are not truly considered heretics as their understanding of the Christian faith was formed completely in the bubble of said heresy. For many, today’s Protestants are not necessarily personally culpable for their flawed views as this is the only view they know (my wife is an excellent example of this).

Now let us examine more fully, the statements made by llondy. Concerning, the claim that the Reformers sought to “reform” the Church in accordance with Scripture fails to take into account Scripture itself: nature, substance and origin. For example, let us consider what the Bible, quoting Jesus, says about addressing disagreements:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew (RSV) 18:15-20)

This passage is rich in opposition to the manner in with Protestant reformers chose to handle their grievances with the Church. In the first verse, Jesus tells us that at the first stage, we must go directly to the person who offended us. As can be the case, should this not prove efficient, then we escalate out complaint higher, ultimately lodging the complaint with an authoritative body: in this case the Church. Here again, should the offender, or any party for that matter, fail to listen to the Church Jesus says in no uncertain terms, “let them be anathema.”

This is where Martin Luther, a former Catholic priest, went wrong. Instead of trying to address many of the abuses he witnessed within the Church via the means prescribed above and in faith in the words of Christ, he chose instead to do it himself. This is the same manner in which of ther reformers handled the situation as well: Zwingli, Calvin and even Henry VIII.

I chose to include verses 18-20 because it reiterates two important points: Church authority and Christ’s headship over the Church. Let us first consider the many denominations that are present as a result of Protestant heresies. Under what authority to these person go out and established new ecclesial communities? Certainly, no Protestant community can claim Apostolic succession and thus claim to be founded by Jesus Himself. The Catholic Church makes this claim and maintains the historicity in both practice and record to prove it. Next, we must ask ourselves, “What church is Jesus referring to?” Keep in mind that this particular church must be one established by Him (Matthew 16:18) and must have His very authority. Now, Matthew 18:18 establishes this authority within the Church as a group, however, in Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus gives that very authority to Peter himself – to exercise by himself as the steward of the Kingdom (cf. Isaiah 22:22), which is the Church.

Aside from the manner in which the Protestant reformers attempted to reform the Church, they also sought to implement their own fallible and errant theology. Protestant theology, much of which remains founded in dogmas taught and promulgated by the Church such as the Most Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Jesus, was formed by personal and not divinely protected thoughts of the Reformers in contrast to Saint Peter‘s warning in 2 Peter 1:20-21, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Consider this warning with the what Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15-16 concerning the wisdom contained in the writings of Paul,”And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” The sum total of these warnings inform the faithful to seek guidance from the Church, which is the authoritative body founded by Jesus and protected by the Holy Spirit.

In light of Scripture, the question must be asked, “If the Reformers, did not answer to the authority of the Church and sought to supplant said authority with Sola Scriptura, then why accept Catholic New Testament Canon, why throw out books of the already-defined Old Testament Canon, why trust in the fallible Martin Luther for direction on the Canon and why later, count Luther’s own teaching as wrong and formulate new ones?” These questions continue and persist because there is no proper answer. The Protestant Reformation was born of men. Men who decided to go against God and “do it their way.” For this reason I consider Protestantism to be a religious tradition(s) that is relativistic. There is no central authority to teach and aid the believer to the Fullness of the Truth.

Without such an authority they cannot adequately defend the Canon of Scripture without acquiescing to the Magisterium for the New Testament and then seeking to contradict that same authority in defense of the heretical action of removing books from the Old Testament Canon. Interestingly enough, the reason for removing the books from the Old Testament rests on acceptance of majority Jewish canon, which remains undefined to this day: Ethiopian Jews use the same Old Testament Canon that Catholics use, Reformed Jews only recognize the Pentateuch as the Sadducees did – it was the Pharisees that accepted a Canon in use by Protestants. Yet, the Jews were never given the authority to define the canonicity of Scripture (if they did, they did not exercise it) and as it relates to the Christians, their authority was no longer valid so to appeal to their Canon makes no sense. The refusal to accept the “Apocryphal” (Deuterocanonical) books of the Bible was as response the increasing conversion of Jews to Christianity, which is the fulfilment of that religion.

In speaking with one Protestant (Baptist) scholar, of whom I asked, “How can you discount Catholic theology and not do the same with other Protestant sects?” His response was disturbing to me considering Jesus prayer in the Garden:

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.
As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me.
I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John (RSV) 17:16-26)

The response I received from the scholar was, “Each Christian tradition contains their own truth and interpretation. We are all right because we believe in the essentials of Christianity.” What are the essentials of Christianity and who determines one doctrine over another? It is through this doubt and the inability of any Protestant ecclesial community to address this that we are able to identify them as congregations that abide in some Truth but not the Fullness of Truth that is the inheritance of all the baptised.


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