What Luther Lost Us
Any proper response to your contesting points must necessarily begin with an expression of gratitude. Not only am I honored that you would make the effort to correct my apparent misdirection, I am impressed that your argument would be so sound! Your knowledge of church history is quite impressive.
Admittedly, my posting of a provocative meme does not allow for any depth of consideration, so much as it merely gives voice to an impression- an impression that is, as you would point out, not flattering, and on its face- not constructive. What IS constructive, are exchanges like this, for which anyone who reads this, will have your diligence and gumption to thank.
So thank you both for your challenge, and the opportunity to give voice to the reasons that gave rise to the posting of this silly meme. And yes, it is silly.
But your points must first be met.
For which my primary response, is to acknowledge the accuracy of what you said. In your defense of the Protestant Reformation, and the basis for all other such separations from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church (aka: schisms), you cite the oft-contested authority of the pope throughout the ages, from Emperor Justinian (527-565) to Martin Luther (1483-1546), and the Great Eastern Schism.
That brief history of the church reminded me of a saying that a friend once told me: “Where two or more are gathered… there will be politics.”
But yes, by all means, you are absolutely correct- those events certainly occurred, and the natural consequences of such diabolical disunities have born the rotten fruit of many lost souls. Not the least of which, I shall assert, lie at the feet of one Martin Luther himself.
Obviously I cannot down-play or dismiss the demonic contributions made by bishops and popes throughout the history of the Catholic Church- I mean, good heavens, look at us today! But when Christ promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church, He was not making an offer to remove from all its popes, the humanity of their nature as created beings, thus insulating them from the capacity to error. In fact, in selecting St. Peter, Jesus did two additional things: He commissioned a human to lead an infallible entity, and appointed to that entity, a unifying principle. We call this unifying principle, The Papacy. And it is the Papacy which acts in union with the direction of the Holy Spirit, to ensure the infallibility of the Church appointed by Christ.
At this point in a conversation between a Catholic and a Protestant, it becomes necessary to properly define the term “Church.” For what I mean by the use of this word, I’ll simply refer you to this previous article, “Tradition of Truth.”
With such an understanding of the nature of the Church, as well as an acknowledgement (if not understanding) of human nature, it is not unreasonable to expect that we members of the Body of Christ, must persevere in fidelity to Truth and Love, despite the occasional ravages of political upheaval about us and even within our own ranks. We, like the apostles upon Christ’s proclamation of the real presence in the Eucharist, must respond, “Where else shall we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
What we should NOT do, is run off with half of what’s been given us, and start our own religion.
No one would begrudge Martin Luther the trouble of ecclesiastical corruption- he undoubtedly suffered his fair share of it. But no amount of it would justify what he did in response to it.
It was Martin Luther, in his delirious throes of scrupulosity, who discovered his salvation by self-proclamation, and laid the groundwork for every one of the other umpteenth number of splinter denominations to assert its independence from the one before, until somewhere down the line, humanity went full-circle and reinvented paganism (with a twist) and called it Unitarian.
It was Martin Luther who, in his drive to emancipate himself from the Catholic Church, found it necessary to throw the baby (Truth) out with the bathwater (Reform).
So if we’ve acknowledged the frequent necessity of the latter, what would I assert is missing from the former? I’ll tell you.
Whenever Catholicism is contested in its teachings by Protestantism, there are three subject areas by which the latter is consistently found lacking:
1) Philosophy (to include Logic)
3) And Tradition
By many a Protestant’s own admission, Tradition is a thing like racing stripes on a car- neat to have, but totally inconsequential to proper function. The problem with this, of course, is that it disregards the historical reality of human experience. Proper interpretation of languages, customs, phrases, events, and characters requires a proper context, grounded in historical precision that is faithfully communicated through the years. Not to mention all of the unwritten messages and teaching passed on by words and customs alone. Say what you want about pouring over ancient papers with a magnifying glass, but only Tradition will give you that. And with it, a proper understanding of something that was written thousands of years before.
Which brings us to the tip of the iceberg when discussing the Truth that has been lost to Protestantism. Though many denominations are not as bass-ackwards as Calvinism’s assertion of “Total Depravity,” they give precious little consideration to the philosophical treasures of Natural Law, and by necessity for their own existence, nothing at all to either tradition or authority. This leaves Protestantism with a concept alien to all the Church fathers, called “Solo Scriptura,” where the only source of validated Truth is reduced to the Bible alone.
Of course, the Bible certainly should be recognized for its Truth, but as an inspired work, its proper study necessitates the application of authoritative interpretation. Otherwise you end up with what we have in Protestantism: thousands upon thousands of various, often-contradicting interpretations.
Of course, Protestantism defined itself out of the capacity for authoritative interpretation by virtue of being born from denial of both authority and tradition!
So what the Protestant is left with, is personal interpretation. Of a divinely-inspired work of literature, written thousands of years before, by people who’s customs are accessible by archives alone.
Which is silly.
And which is why, while I am ever-grateful for your challenge, I hope you will understand that I will be leaving this meme in place.
Thanks again, Alli-son!
You are awesome.