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A church within a church?

27 Nov

Pelikan, Jaroslav. 1964. Obedient rebels: Catholic substance and Protestant principle in Luther’s Reformation. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.

From 17th century Lutheran John Gerhard (On the Church, p. 139):

“If the confession of true doctrine and the legitimate use of the Sacraments had been left free for us, perhaps we would not have departed from the external fellowship of the Roman church.”

Was it really honest for him to say that?  Indeed.  James Swan has a recent post entitled “The Revolutionary Reformers?”  Let’s take a look:

“Have you ever read the Roman mantra that Luther and his colleagues were radicals that split the church? You know… that they were hard-headed radicals that wouldn’t play nice with Roman authority? Well, here’s a different spin on things compliments of a footnote in the recent edition of Luther’s Works-

“In the interest of peace in the empire, moreover, Luther and his Wittenberg colleagues were prepared to make major concessions to the jurisdictional authority of the Catholic bishops. Accordingly, at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, Melanchthon, acting with the full knowledge and support of Luther and the Saxon government, offered restitution of the jurisdiction of the Catholic bishops over the Evangelical congregations on the condition that the bishops ordain Evangelical priests and recognize the legitimacy of Communion in both kinds, clerical marriage, and the Mass in German. This offer remained on the table through all the failed attempts of the 1530’s and 1540’s to find a peaceful solution to the religious divisions in the empire” (LW 59:276).”

Very interesting, to say the least.  Even more interesting, when one considers the following statement from Edward T. Oakes on First Thing’s blog:

“When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteen century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it.”

All of the essential doctrines the Lutherans lay claim to in the Augsburg Confession had been believed, taught, and confessed in various times and places in the Church. Up to that point  And the Lutherans were not just claiming to be a kind of “cafeteria church” picking and choosing what they liked.  The claim of these first “evangelicals” was that these teachings truly were “holy, catholic and apostolic”.  What required the condemnation of the alternative doctrines (not persons) on their part was that those holding to these could not abide the evangelical’s teaching – which again, up to that point, had in fact inhered in the Roman Catholic Church.

Update: Good post to go with this one: http://lutherancatholicity.blogspot.com/2012/12/jaroslav-pelikan-on-catholicity-of.html

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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