The German Reformation is 500 years old this week. Isn’t that a good excuse to pick on them for a change? I know we live in the age of ecumenism and we are supposed to throw flowers at each other and blow kisses in every direction … But just a few days ago I was shown this short paragraph below and my first thought I cannot reproduce in this family venue, but I can reproduce my second thought which was “What a load of nonsense.”
Why take the time to address the Protestant Reformation? Because the Gospel was recovered from superstition and error. The core beliefs of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria were recovered and placed before the people biblically, replacing works-based religion, hawking of relics, selling of indulgences to advance from purgatory, praying to saints instead of to God and no access to God’s word in our own language. This spiritual shift literally changed the world. Today, we need to guard the Gospel faith, “once delivered to the Saints” (Jude 1:3) and recovered by the reformers 500 years ago.” – Dr. Kenyn Cureton, Family Research Council.
I have many Protestant friends, mostly good Evangelicals from Virginia and I can only say good things about them, great things in fact. They are solid bunch of decent people who love Jesus and for the most part, take the Gospel seriously. I keep a number of books from Protestant authors in my bookshelf. Those are from the years I was searching, trying to learn about Christ at a time when I did not know that He was only a few blocks away at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Washington Street, neatly transubstantiated into bread and waiting for me to get there and learn how to receive Him. That was over twenty years ago. Back in those days there were Protestant writers that helped me get some basic ideas clear. C. S. Lewis was my guide from the beginning but I also got to read some extraordinary authors like Aiden Wilson Tozer, the man who wrote a great little book: The Knowledge of the Holy.
So when I run into grown men, responsible citizens like Dr. Cureton who start throwing around the usual battle cries of the German Deformation, I can’t believe it’s been five centuries. They should know better by now. So here’s to you, Dr. Cureton, Jesus loves you more than you will know. I cannot extend myself too much on each answer but I sincerely hope someone will make good use of them and research them in good Catholic books.
So, the Catholic Church taught superstition until Luther came and got things straight? In reality about five centuries before Luther, Blessed Macarius founded one of the oldest — if not the oldest — libraries in Germany, in Würzburg. The Church is the founder of all the medieval libraries and universities in Europe, hardly the work of a group bent on promoting superstition. Are there superstitious Europeans? Yes, even to this day but that is not the Catholic Church’s fault. Catholic Doctrine does not contain one line of superstition. To verify that, one has to unlearn the doctrinal caricatures used by Protestantism to ridicule Catholicism while misleading ignorant people away from the truth.
I never tire to repeat this. Catholic Popes have been writing and commenting on doctrine for 2,000 years, some of those documents are in the New Testament. To this day and after five centuries of Protestant allegations of error, no one has found one contradiction in that considerable collection written by men that did not know each other, and had no way to conspire to create a religious scam. Sadly, if the Catholic doctrine had deviated from the truth and purposely taught error, Jesus would be a liar since, in John 16:3, He promised His disciples the guidance of the Holy Spirit that would “lead them to all truth.”
In fact, if there was a need to correct or reform the doctrine of the faith — as Luther said he did — what do we do then with Jesus’ promise of guarding the faith by means of the Holy Spirit until his return?
First of all, Sola Scriptura is not historical. There was not such thing as a Christian Bible before the 4th century. In fact, the only way ordinary people could learn Holy Scripture was by listening to the readings at Mass. Until well after the invention of the press by Gutenberg — who was a Catholic — owning a Bible was as easy as owning a gold plated Maserati. The Apostles themselves had no Bible to preach with. They simply taught the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. If we apply the doctrine of Sola Scriptura to the Apostles, we would have to conclude they were misleading the faithful into believing in “words of men” and not the Bible which, by the way, was not even sanctioned until centuries later.
In second place, Sola Scriptura is not scriptural. There is nothing written in Scripture indicating that Christians should read the Bible and make themselves a church according to their best understanding of such reading. That would have been a pretty hard thing to do before the mid 1800’s when finally Bibles began to be produced in high quantities and became available to the general public.
The believer’s merit consists in agreeing to let God transform man’s own sinful nature. In Luke 1:38, the Blessed Virgin Mary surrenders her own life to God’s will in a perfect act of faith thus showing to all the way serve to God, source of all grace: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” Yes salvation is obtained by the grace of God but man has to surrender to God’s will, and persevere collaborating with God in man’s own salvation. That is evident from reading the Scriptures honestly.
Solus Christus is a clever heretical invention. It is well known that Christ asked us to pray and intercede even for our enemies. We can pray for each other, in fact, we are encouraged to do so. Believers intercede even for those outside the faith, Saint Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-2:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
In Hebrews 7:25 we see that Jesus intercedes in the same manner:
Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Soli Deo Gloria?
Soli Deo Gloria is the belief that all veneration of any degree goes to God alone and no person can be venerated least he or she becomes an idol, an abominable thing.
In all truth we are encouraged by God to venerate those who live exemplary lives according to His will. We can venerate the saints’ godly example because they are already in Heaven partaking of the divine nature. Praying to the Father, Jesus says in John 17:22
“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Is Jesus an idolater for giving glory to His Apostles? 1 Corintians 6:17 reads:
“But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
That is confirmed by 2 Peter 1:4,
“Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.”
Protestants confuse the veneration of the saints with giving glory to God. Even in civil life there are levels of respect. It is not the same to slap an ordinary citizen, a police officer, or the President. Each one of them has a certain measure of dignity and due honor. Some have a special dignity because of the office they hold.
This is of course, a variation or a result of the error of Sola Gratia. There is merit in doing God’s will by allowing Him to work on our bettering and becoming useful in the work of saving others. Saint Paul in Philippians 2:12-13 is clear:
“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
The phrase “works-based religion” is an non-scriptural epithet used to mislead believers that there is no merit in laboring for our salvation or the salvation of others.
Hawking of relics?
Ah! This is an old favorite of mine. Let the New Testament speak first in Acts 19:11-12,
“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.”
And then the Old Testament:
“So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. As a man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha; as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet.” 2 Kings 13:20-21.
Apparently, the ancient Hebrews and the Apostles were “hawking relics” — what a shame!
First, let us see the definition of indulgence in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is important to understand that indulgences are not a “permission to sin” as some Protestants misrepresent them.
“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1471.
Many Protestants denominations teach that their sins are forgiven ahead of time, once and for all by the sacrifice of Jesus. Some believe that “once saved, always saved” therefore nothing can stop them from going to Heaven. That truly sounds like an indulgence, in fact that sounds like a permission to sin without further negative consequences.
In fact, Jesus gave Peter and his successors the keys and the power to tie and untie in His name:
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Indulgences are one of the uses of that awesome power but most of all, they are a sign of the great mercy of God who wants us not to have a false assurance of salvation but wants to cleanse us of all sin and save us from eternal destruction.
Praying to saints and not to God?
This one is really simple.
As we have seen already, we can intercede from each other through prayer. We can pray for each other and we are encouraged to pray even for unbelievers. We can do that. It is “biblical”. Now the saints are in Heaven. They are in perfect communion with God. If I could have asked Saint Paul or Saint Peter to pray for me when they were alive on earth, why can’t I ask them today to intercede for me with their prayers, now that they have reached the perfection of Heaven? Should I stop talking to my friends in Heaven because 15th century German sourpuss does not like it? Please!
Access to God’s Word in our own language?
The Bible was translated into nearly all the main vernacular languages of Europe since the early Middle Ages. That was done mainly for liturgical purposes for it would have served no purpose to read the Scriptures in Latin to people that no longer used that language. There were translations of the Bible into German, English, Spanish, and Italian centuries older than Luther’s translation. That is a fact that can be easily verified. Think of this: the Church has been reading Holy Scripture to the people in every Mass even before the Christian Bible was compiled and approved.
Spiritual shift that changed the world?
There are tens of thousands of Protestant denominations. Yes, the world was changed but not for the better. The German Reformation gave impulse to Illuminism, that in time brought us the French Revolution, Socialism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism, and many other undesirable “isms” that have plagued us for generations! In England, the Reformation unleashed a dark period of persecution. Saintly Catholic men and women were tortured, dismembered alive, beheaded, and exiled. Centuries later one English Protestant writer, C. S. Lewis wrote:
“The time is always ripe for re-union. Divisions between Christians are a sin and a scandal, and Christians ought at all times to be making contributions toward re-union, if it is only by their prayers.”
It was the Reformation that brought division and strife into the Body of Christ. That “spiritual shift” worked not for the glory of God.
The Faith once delivered to the Saints?
The one faith once delivered to the saints that Saint Jude is talking about is not the many faiths delivered to the lost by a myriad reformers, each one his own pope. To those, Saint Jude reserved some choice words:
Yet in like manner these men in their musings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals do, they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in the rebellion of Korah. These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever. Letter of Jude 8-13.
The Reformers recovered nothing but rather destroyed the precious unity of the Church. They paid undue honor to the religious men in Rome by using the sins of those men as an excuse to alter the perfect and eternal doctrine received by the Holy Apostles of Jesus Christ. Now that error appears to be allowed in the Catholic Church, even praised by some. In my view, that is sufficient proof that we are living in prophetic times. However, there are many fine followers of Christ among the inheritors of the faith of the Reformers. I believe some of them will be rebuilding the Catholic Church when we return to unity by the grace of God. There are many wonderful converts that used to be anti-Catholic and are now fervent Catholics: Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, David Currie, and many others come to mind. David Warren, a former Calvinist now converted to Catholicism, writes in one of his recent columns:
I think genuine Christians, alas not Catholic, who by the circumstances of birth and upbringing were never likely to become so. Some of these are among my readers, and from their letters I also learn respect for them. Surely Our Lord prefers the company of Protestant faithful, to Catholic faithless. [Essays in Idleness, Protestants, October 27, 2017]
It is time to end Catholic faithlessness and misguided Protestant faithfulness. We can pray and work for unity but in the end, only Christ can achieve it. We can’t do a thing without Him but in Him we can do a lot for each other in good faith.
“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.” Jesus, in John 17:20-23