Monday, November 1, 2010

If You Are a Protestant, What Are You Protesting?

Friend and ministerial colleague, Wes White, has an interesting post entitled, If You Are a Protestant, What Are You Protesting? Yesterday, as we all know, was Halloween. But for Protestants it marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation because on that date in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Yesterday I preached on the topic that the Protestant Reformation was more than an outpouring of the Holy Spirit: indeed, the Protestant Reformation was largely a recovery of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. One need only read books three and four of Calvin's Institutes to see why he has been called, The Theologian of the Holy Spirit.  So, to answer Wes' question, let me give you a tidbit from my sermon of yesterday morning.

We as Protestants formally protest the basis on which The Roman Catholic Church interprets Scripture.  The Roman Catholic Church teaches the following:

“But since sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with its divine authorship in mind, no less attention must be devoted to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, taking into account the Tradition of the entire Church and the analogy of faith, if we are to derive their true meaning from the sacred texts…the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God.”  Vatican Council II, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1977. p. 758 Sacred Scripture and Its Interpretation.

 “As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic Book Publishing, New York, 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Libreria Editrice Vaticana. p. 26, paragraph 82.

“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single deposit of the Word of God (DV 10), in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic Book Publishing, New York, 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Libreria Editrice Vaticana.p. 28, paragraph 97.

We as Protestants protest this position on the grounds that the Holy Spirit, who is the author Scripture, is its  authoritative interpreteter.  Here is one classic Protestant response:

"The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly."  Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 1, Paragraph 9.

"The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture."  Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 1, Paragraph 10.
Here is another classic Protestant response...

"The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults.  In short, it governs itself according to the Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.  By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church -- and no one ought to be separated from it..."

"...As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself of men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.  These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other."  From Article 29 of the Belgic Confession, as reproduced in Ecumenical Creeds and Confessions, CRC Publications, 1988, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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