Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism- Part 2

The Negative Principles of Protestantism

Bouyer states that Protestantism "seemed to bring in an incalculable wealth of constructive power, even to consitute a rediscovery of what was capital and permanent in Christianity." The principles noted already are regarded by Protestants as alone "necessary and sufficient" for the Reformation. But, as we have seen, there was nothing in these principles, understood positively, that was essentially at odds with the Catholic Church. The question then arises, "How did a movement that seemed and still seems to bear within itself the power to rejuvenate and restore traditional Christianity, the Church of all time, come in fact to set up a Christianity disrupted from tradition and to injure and attack of set purpose the Church it had wished to renew?" Protestants, of course, would turn the question around and ask why the Church rejected Protestantism. But, as has been shown, to the extent that Protestantism upheld and strove for sola gratia, sola fide, sola Scriptura and soli Deo gloria, understood positively, the Church did not reject them but upheld these principles also. Thus there must be other principles which explain why what should have been a reformation became a revolt. Bouyer sets out to demonstrate two things in treating of these negative principles: 1) that they do not follow necessarily from the positive principles already mentioned, but are arbitrary to them; 2) that they have in fact undermined and stifled the practical application of the positive principles in the history and practice of Protestantism.

1) Sola Gratia -> Extrinsic Justification

In Luther's writings, two ideas ultimately become inseparable: i) grace alone saves us; ii) it changes nothing in us by doing so. Bouyer points out that the connection is not at all prominent in Luther's pastoral works, when he is teaching the Faith per se or speaking out of his own experience, but is front and centre in his polemics. Thus the notion that to expect or require change in a person is to deny the sufficiency of grace subsequently becomes a key Protestant idea. This is the source of a great deal of the faith vs. works polemic which is perennially popular from Protestant pulpits, in which the possibility of grace-sustained works tends to be elided over.

The New Testament, on the other hand, affirms at once the impossibility of any positive contribution of man to his salvation and at the same time the necessary fruitfulness of grace acting within man for his salvation. The tension may be seen in Romans 7 and 8, and most particularly in Phillipians 2:12-13, which may rightly be regarded as the key to an orthodox soteriology on this point. Luther, of course, hated James for not upholding extrinsic justification, but, in fact, Paul is not much better, consistently speaking of the new man and the old, the spirit and the flesh, a new creation and so on. The idea of a justification whose effects are invisible is foreign to Scripture. Indeed, Calvin saw the problem and advanced the distinction between justification and sanctification that remains standard for many Protestants. However, though this solves the problem, it is also a distinction unknown to Scripture.

Sola fide comes in at this point as well since, understood within the terms of extrinsic justification, faith becomes opposed to works rather than their complement and prerequisite. The Church was perfectly happy to deny the value of Jewish works of the Law, or works done prior to faith or without faith, but the Reformers went further, denying value even to works done by grace. Luther ultimately attacked the formula of fide caritate formata (faith formed by love, c.f. Galatians 5:6), regarding it as the ruin of all he set out to preach.

Bouyer cites the modern Lutheran author Anders Nygren, who agrees with Luther on this point, regarding his rejection of fide caritate formata as the highest point of Lutheran theology and subsequently writing a book ("Eros et Agape") in which an opposition between faith and love is made the hallmark of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. To do this, much of the Gospel of John and the two great commandments in the Synoptics are sidelined, and Bouyer regards this as a demonstration that Protestantism, by its adherence to extrinsic justification, has created within itself a crisis it cannot resolve.

How does extrinsic justification relate to or derive from medieval nominalism? Because nominalism denies the reality of substance or essence and reduces abstract universals to concrete particulars, it creates problems with the idea of change within and relations between beings. If a change takes place within me, so as not to multiply entities unnecessarily, the change must be regarded as having its source in me. Thus, to preserve God as the source of grace, grace can only work externally. Anything active that comes from within me must derive from me. Bouyer states, "If being is reduced to action, and action to what takes place in us, our experience is closed to anything transcendent, or else, on the assumption that the transcendent could intervene, it could only do so by reducing itself to becoming part of ourselves." Thus, on this view, extrinsic justification becomes necessary in order to safeguard the integrity of sola gratia.

2. Soli Deo gloria -> T-LIP & God Beyond Good and Evil

This is not unrelated to the last point. Within Protestantism, God's sovereignty almost immediately becomes bound up with the idea of the impossibility and rejection of any human activity, grace-informed or otherwise, with any religious value or 'merit'. Essentially, Protestantism came to accept that "it is impossible to affirm and uphold the sovereignty of God without a corresponding annihilation of the creature." Bouyer goes on:

[In Protestantism,] to suppose that man, as the result of God's grace, has the power to do acts good in themselves, even granted his total dependence on God, would be to destroy the gratuitousness of grace and so to deny the sovereign freedom of God's say that man, as the recipient of saving grace, could be himself pleasing to God is to be guilty of blasphemy.

Such ideas are clear in Luther, clearer in Calvin and pivotal in Barth. Indeed, Barth regards saints in the Church as being, rather than a testament to God's grace and holiness, an affront to them. Conceiving God's sovereignty as inversely proportional to any freedom or value, whether inherent or received, in His creatures derives, like extrinsic justification, from the reluctance of nominalism to multiply entities or to allow that substances/essences can be equal possessors of a particular universal, since nominalist philosophy does not accept either the existence of substance/essence or of universals.

What does Scripture say on the matter? On the one hand, as noted earlier, it disqualifies any attempt by man to ascribe to himself what belongs to the Creator. In Isaiah, the Almighty states "I will give My glory to no other," (Isaiah 42:8) and Isaiah says elsewhere, "All our justifications are like a soiled garment" (Isaiah 64:6). Job declares, "He finds fault even among the angels," (Job 33:23) and Our Lord Himself admonishes the rich young ruler, "No one is good but God" (Mark 10:18). But elsewhere Our Lord also commands His listeners, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48). St Paul writes, "His grace in me has not been void," (1 Cor 15:10) and St John encourages the recipients of his first letter, "We are called sons of God and that is what we are" (1 John 3:1). There is a tension here and any adequate theology must account for it. Bouyer summarises:

The Bible sets God's 'inaccessible light' deny Him the act of creating or recreating anything of value outside Himself...[but] to emphasise how much the first creation, still more the second, attest by their intrinsic reality and goodness the incomparable reality and goodness of Him Whom they manifest...The God of Calvinism and Barthism...keeps all His greatness only if His creatures return to nothingness. The God of the Bible...shows His greatness in snatching them from nothingness.

Nominalism creates even more problems for God's sovereignty, however. The sovereignty of God, as a concept, requires that God be absolutely free, that none of His actions be constrained. To be understood in nominalist terms, however, this creates a gulf between the Creator and creature that goes beyond Christian orthodoxy. Given nominalism's rejection of transcendence as such and it's need to understand all things as singular, concrete and particular rather than as exemplars of abstract categories, in order for God to be God, He must be beyond all possible limitations, all possible particulars, incapable of being comprehended or understood by finite beings. This is somewhat similar to Eastern ideas of apophaticism or hesychasm, but taken to even greater extremes, because on this understanding God is, among other things, beyond good and evil, beyond true and false (Occam proposes this as the only acceptable definition of omnipotence or potentia absoluta). Thus the favourite Calvinist text of Romans 9:20-22 ("But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?") becomes not a rebuttal to those who would limit God's covenant but a rebuttal to anyone who would believe that God must be true to His own nature as He has revealed it, i.e. merciful, faithful and just. The infinite in nominalism must also be the indefinite. To refuse the possibility that God can leave men as sinners while regarding them otherwise or create some to salvation and others to damnation would be to limit His sovereignty. Conversely, a God Who makes us act and be freely is a God Who lessens and diminshes Himself precisely to that extent.

To demonstrate the deleterious effects of this philosophy on Christian theology, Bouyer takes the example of Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth on the 'analogy of being', and it is an interesting enough example to warrant a short digression.

2.1 Barthism vs. Thomism on Revelation

Thomas in his understanding of God's revelation of Himself to mankind puts forward the idea of the 'analogy of being'. This idea is designed to see off two possible errors:

1) that the Word of God is of like nature with human words and is thus reducible to them (this is essentially the present liberal position), thus the Word of God can be understood and manipulated by me in the same way my own thoughts and words can be.
2) that the Word of God has no relation to human words whatsoever; thus the Word of God must remain "an unresolved enigma, a symbol impossible to decipher".

Thomas skirts between these two errors, proposing a third alternative. Since God made all things, says Thomas, and thus all things are a reflection of God's mind (the mind of man included), it is possible for man to open his mind, illumined by faith, to the mysteries of God's Word, not limiting them within his own ideas but transposing and enlarging these to reflect God's Word truly, if imperfectly. Thomas calls this the analogy of being (a good historical exemplar of the analogy of being at work is the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance in the concept of the Son being eternally begotten; here we see precisely this stretching and enlarging of human ideas, words and concepts to express infinite realities).

Karl Barth, however, regards the analogy of being as an aberration and tantamount to idolatry; in fact, he believes it indistinguishable from Error 1 above. He has precedent in this, because nominalist theologians of the late Middle Ages thought the same, though approvingly, because they believed Error 1 was correct. This was far from Thomas' understanding, however. Bouyer bemoans the fact: "Catholic writers are certainly to be blamed for [this misconception] but only through their subservience to fallacies that Protestants did not dream of criticisng, Barth least of all."

3. Personal Religion -> Individualistic Religion

Despite Luther's conservatism vis-a-vis liturgy and the sacraments (he was the only Reformer to uphold the Real Presence as an objective reality against Zwingli's symbolic and Calvin's subjective approach), there exists in him and in Protestantism from its inception the tendency to downplay the value of the sacraments and/or make their worth purely subjective. Thus personal religion, in practice, has no object outside itself. Several natural consequences flow from this tendency.

The sacraments, the Church (and even, potentially, doctrine c.f. modern liberal Christians) become only aids to individual faith or psychological stimulants. By implication, then, a person of strong faith doesn't need them and, since the person with least faith naturally thinks himself the person of strongest faith, we have, in the case of churchgoing, the classic line, "I don't need to go to church. I can pray to God at home." The standard Protestant response of quoting Heb 10:25 and saying, 'You need to meet with those of like mind; you need the support of your Christian brothers and sisters," misses the point. Thus faith becomes less and less a faith in salvation in a universal covenantal sense or faith in Him Who saves and more and more faith in my own individual salvation.

4. Supreme Authority of Scripture -> No Authority But Scripture

The supremacy of Scripture was very quickly married to absolute denial of any authority in the Church, present or past, either in its interpretations of Scripture (patristics), doctrinal decisions of Councils or the right of bishops or Popes to recommend or condemn ideas, or discipline in any way the Christians in their spiritual care (in other words, fulfill any of their pastoral responsibilities). Sola Scriptura, then, came to mean, not only 'Scripture is the supreme authority' but 'Scripture is the only authority'. Scripture did not merely trump other authorities (an idea the Church had always accepted), it replaced them. There were to be no other authorities, even ones subservient to Scripture.

Once again, this new idea derives from nominalism. The necessity of an external Word in nominalism precludes any immanence of it in tradition, external interpretation (eg. by any church) or in mystical experience. It cannot come through the agency of man in any form, lest it cease thereby to be of God. Thus the perennial Protestant temptation is to regard it as delivered direct from God, dictated to its human authors. Though many Protestants hold that Scripture had active human authors and as such is at once the words of men and the Word of God, the extent to which that idea affects how Scripture is read and understood can be shaky at times, and the temptation to deny it altogether often exhibits itself (eg. in John Owen, among others).

Positive and Negative Principles Confounded

The great tragedy of the Reformation, according to Bouyer, is that, since nominalist concepts and categories were largely taken for granted by all, almost no one, either Catholic or Protestant, thought to distinguish between the positive principles at the heart of Protestantism and the negative principles that were arbitrarily but intimately joined to them. So mostly each side fell to condemning the whole package wholesale or defending it wholesale. I would argue, contra Bouyer, that the Council of Trent did go some way towards separating the two and condemning only the latter (though far too late for it to do very much practical good; the lines were by then too clearly drawn and each side too deeply entrenched) but certainly on a non-magisterial level, that contention holds true more often than not. Three examples:

Exhibit A: Luther and Erasmus on the Will

The titles of their respective treatises (De Servo Arbitrio & De Libero Arbitrio- "The Enslaved Will" & "The Free Will', respectively) demonstrate the problem. Essentially, Erasmus tried to salvage free will independently of grace, while Luther tried to defend grace by denying free will. It occurred to neither of them to say that prevenient grace frees our will to respond to saving grace, or that grace, instead of declaring us free while we remain slaves, makes us free indeed. For both Luther and Erasmus, the idea that God and man act together in justification is a zero-sum game, like two men hauling something. The more one man does, the less the other has to (or can) do. For the corrective to both, see St Bernard of Clairvaux's De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio ("Of Grace and Free Will"- again, the title sets the tone, this time in the right direction). For St Bernard, God does all and man does all and there is no contradiction between the two. St Bernard maintains the paradoxical balance of Phillipians 2:12-13 whereas both Luther and Erasmus betray it in different ways.

Exhibit B: Personalism vs. Authoritarianism

As one reads the writings of the Counter-Reformation, it quickly becomes apparent that the extreme subjectivism and individualism of the Reformers was countered, not by an effective personalist alternative, but by rigid authoritarianism. Catholic writers of the period have a tendency to exalt external authority and make blind submission a virtue. This was effective to at least some degree in keeping Catholics in the fold, but it also persuaded lots of Protestants and reform-minded individuals that their conviction of the importance of engaged, personal religion could only be preserved by rejecting any external authority, legitimate or not, and replacing it with free-thinking.

Exhibit C: Predestination

If infinite equals indeterminate, God is either not the cause of our salvation or He is the equal cause of salvation and damnation since good and evil are in the Deity not intrinsic but arbitrary (as chez the Muslims). Calvin, of course, took the latter option. The Catholic response? Almost across the board it was urged "Just don't think about it." For example, see the admonition in St Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises, "We should not make predestination an habitual subject of conversation." It is not surprising, then, that many people, to retain the traditional Christian doctrine of predestination in some form, jumped on board with Calvinism.

Both reactions flow from nominalist assumptions. Because nominalism is a purely empirical system, excluding anything not within our experience, thereby disallowing transcendence, it must conceive the kingship (sovereignty) of God in human terms, i.e. the more power the people have, the less the king has, and vice versa. An absolute authority that, by its very absolutism, enables (rather than destroys) the freedom of its subjects is thus literally inconceivable. Therefore, in the very effort of trying to maintain God as Wholly Other, Calvinism reduces Him to human categories and engages in a bit of ugly but covert anthropomorphism. Meanwhile, the Counter-Reformation sees the problem but sees no way out of it since, without noticing, it has become guilty of the same anthropomorphism, and thus covers its ears and sings, "Lalala!"

Decay of the Protestant Principles

According to Bouyer, the retention by Protestantism of nominalist categories and the ideas flowing from them led not only to "the neglect of the complementary aspects of Christian truth" but also inhibited and undermined the positive principles on which Protestantism is built. A few examples will suffice to make the point.

From Sola Gratia Back to Pelagianism

Extrinsic justification, designed to safeguard sola gratia, ultimately prohibits grace from having any visible effect. Thus mysticism becomes suspect, since God is not allowed to show Himself in the interior life, only externally (Bouyer mentions the violent reactions in Lutheranism against the Lutheran Collegia pietatis of Arndt and Spener). In addition, the secular and sacred realms become domains which do not affect or touch each other. Both of these tendencies were ultimately reacted against and the pendulum swung back the other way, to a religion of moralism and of sentimental experience (the latter especially prominent in a lot of modern Evangelicalism, to the chagrin of some- Bouyer regards it as an inevitable development since grace had been understood as meaning man had nothing to do). Likewise, Puritanism soon turned Pelagian by trying to establish 'the heavenly Jerusalem' on earth, first in England under Cromwell, then in America. Since grace did not enable them to do this (it being a simple declaration of righteousness), they had to do it on their own, in their own power. Also Arminianism, reacting against Calvin's double predestination and the repugnance of TULIP, makes the will that accepts grace autonomous. Pure Pelagianism.

To speak of broader currents in Protestant culture. If for God to be sovereign man must be nothing, and since experience demonstrates that man is not nothing ("made in the image of God", as the Scriptures attest), to regard man as he is requires diminishing God. This naturally leads to things like the old Protestant maxim, "The Lord helps those who help themselves", a sentiment that would have horrified both Luther and Calvin. Likewise, one not infrequently finds in modern Protestantism a tendency to treat God as an equal (the "Jesus is my boyfriend" kind of spirituality present in many modern Praise and Worship songs exemplifies this) or as a commodity (for example, as a means to make your life better, Prayer of Jabez-style). All of these things run entirely counter to those genuinely Christian principles at Protestantism's heart.

From Personal Religion and the Sovereignty of God to Authoritarianism and Human Tyranny

By making a genuine valuing of personal religion, over against arbitrary regimentation, legalism and authoritarianism, into a force overly individualistic and subjective, Protestantism inadvertently raises up an even more authoritarian edifice than before. Moreover, it is an edifice that rests not on the sovereign and almighty will of God but on the arbitrary will of men.

Given the break with the Catholic Church, three options were open to Protestantism:

1) reject all spiritual authority save the individual (Anabaptists, Quakers, etc.)
2) give spiritual authority to the civil authorities (Lutheranism)
3)create a new church artificially through the contrivance of an individual genius (Calvinism)

All three options subject Christians to arbitrary and undeniably human authority. This is so in large part because of the relegation of concrete authority from God to an inaccessible heaven (or, arguably, the inaccessible past). Thus Luther, following a medieval tendency (which Henry VIII also ultimately followed) created a national church, subservient to the State. How this undermines effective living of the Christian life and, most particularly, effective corporate witness of Christ to non-Christians may be adequately seen in the current upheavals in the Anglican Communion. Calvin tried to avoid this implicit denial of divine sovereignty by creating a church from a Scriptural blueprint. But the Body of Christ cannot be remade by men- it must be created directly by God. Thus the Calvinist churches became, rather than divine institutions, human institutions established according to a divine plan.

The existence of these different approaches naturally gave rise to the concept of denominations (we too easily forget how novel the very idea of denominations is, and how foreign to the minds of most Christians throughout history). Subjectivism rules out an objective norm for faith, but when someone with such ideas founds a church, it is founded on his own subjectivism and thus is narrower and more oppressive to others. Such foundations, as they multiply, tend to become ever narrower and, in an attempt to halt the process, become ever more pedantic about rules of faith and doctrinal requirements, making matters of speculation into makers or breakers of fellowship (for example, the original Fundamentalists, who made fundamentals of some things which had never been so regarded by Christianity in the past and did not feature in any of the historic Creeds; moreover I know of and have been a member of churches that have split or have lost members over issues such as gifts of the Spirit, various eschatological scenarios, creationism, when the age of reason commences in children and inerrancy- issues on which Catholics, perhaps surprisingly, are perfectly free to hold a variety of opinions). Bouyer says:

Whenever [Protestant churches] refuse to dissolve themselves in practice into simple associations for worship, without any doctrinal, moral orliturgical law other than the whim of each, they tend immediately to become rigid frameworks in which a particular type of religious mentality or feeling unconsciously results in the opression of others. Moreover, in practice, even where the ministers do not wish or claim to be other than delegates of their own communities, churches of this type always end by delivering over their members to the subjective views of each minister.

The principle is seen a fortiori in worship. At the centre is the sermon, which the minister has written and delivers according to the message he wants to give his congregation. He chooses the readings based on what he wants to preach on, the hymns to fit the same topic (though, with the advent and increasing use of 'worship leaders' and 'worship bands' this is less the case than when I was growing up) and the prayers he usually makes up as he goes. The whole liturgy is moulded by the minister's personal devotion. "One cannot imagine," says Bouyer, "any system more completely effective in replacing the authority of God by that of the individual minister."

In addition, the Protestant use of sacraments, according to Bouyer, undermines sola gratia. In the sacraments, on the Protestant understanding, is found not what faith finds there but what it puts there. My baptism is merely an outward showing of an inner reality. The Lord's Supper is simply a memory aid. Thus both become not unlike the Jewish Law, merely exterior acts, bringing nothing that is not in the believer, becoming less necessary the more spiritually mature you are. "What, in fact," asks Bouyer, "is more contrary to the principle of a religion in which the gift of God is all than the reality of a religion in which there is nothing beyond what is brought by the personal devotion of each?"

Moreover, far from returning to the simpler worship of the early Christians, Protestants have inadvertently exacerbated late medieval worship tendencies and corruptions. For example, in the late medieval period in the West, the focus of Eucharistic worship had come to be predominantly on the words of institution. The older focus, however (still strongly maintained in Eastern Orthodoxy), was on the whole epiclesis, which ultimately derived from Judaism. The Reformers (most especially the Zwinglians) tended to drop the epiclesis entirely and regard as valid any Eucharist at which the words of institution were uttered, and this is still generally true of Protestants today. In doing this, rather than harking back to the apostolic practice of the Lord's Supper freed from medieval accretions, Protestants have taken a dodgy medieval idea and run with it, sacrificing essential and apostolic elements of Christian worship.

From Sola Scriptura to the Jesus Seminar

Protestantism, in making itself a Religion of the Book, opened itself to two contradictory tendencies. The first is to virtually divinise the Bible (certainly that's what it looks like to more than one Catholic to whom I have spoken), to eliminate as much as possible the human elements in it by, for example, postulating the inspiration of the vowel signs in the Masoretic text or remaining stubbornly committed to the exact scientific accuracy of Genesis 1 or the census numbers in Numbers. The Bible must be seen, says Bouyer, "as a spiritual meteor discharged suddenly onto our planet...innocent of any geological traces." In modern times, we have such things as the KJV-only crowd or the idea I once read (I forget where, unfortunately) that God providentially caused the original autographs to be lost lest people misguidedly worship them (a notion which, to a Catholic, confirms all his mistaken supicions about Protestant bibliolatry and, in any case, seems patently ridiculous since there are plenty of more immediate relics of Christ and the Apostles out there and nobody worships those).

In the nineteenth century, textual criticism made the human element undeniable and so this extreme view was reacted against and the human element elevated above or even to the exclusion of the divine element. Not being comfortable with a Word both fully divine and fully human, due to nominalist modes of thinking, the reactionaries relegated it firmly to the latter category; unable to see anything in Scripture that was not human, it became merely human literature, at best evidence of the 'religious genius' of the Hebrews.

Protestant Revivals

Bouyer sees, in addition to these examples of the negative principles undermining the positive, other examples of Protestants instinctively taking hold of the positive principles and fighting back against the negations that cancel them out. He describes at some length how he sees in such a category men like the Lutheran Pietists, Count von Zinzendorf and the Moravians and, most interestingly (to me, anyway), John Wesley and the Methodist movement. I won't describe at length these examples (this post is getting far too long- I had forgotten how extensive my notes were) but Bouyer sums them up in this way.

[Protestants such as these] remain faithful to the religion of the sola gratia, but do not consider themselves bound irrevocably to extrinsic justification. They do not cease to uphold the ideal of soli Deo gloria, but they have discovered anew the meaning of the words of St Ireneaus, 'Gloria Dei, vivens homo.' More than anyone they desire personal religion, but they escape the chimera of a person built on autonomy and subjectivism. More ardently than all the rest they believe in the Bible, in the Word of God in the Bible, as the source of light and life; but the very truth of their practical obedience to the divine Word is what preserves them from bolstering it up with philosophical assumptions that would prevent its being heard whenever it said anything different from what the system warranted.

In short, Bouyer urges Protestants to carefully examine and seek to understand the significance of these revival movements for Protestantism and the ideas it is founded on.

And what of the Catholic Church? Bouyer's final chapter is titled "The Catholic Church Necessary for Full Flowering of the Principles of the Reformation". Protestantism, he believes, will only be fully faithful to the principles on which it is founded in union with the Catholic Church. Separate, it will continue to undermine its own principles by the negations already mentioned. Likewise, Catholicism needs the living expression of that Christian core at Protestantism's heart. Protestantism should have reformed the Church and it still can, but it can only do so from within the Church; separated, it will continue to sabotage itself to a greater or lesser extent. "Catholicism," concludes Bouyer, "insofar as it is opposed to the principles of Protestantism, opposes only a systematisation of them that rests on fallacies and leads to their destruction. In reality, the real tenets of Catholicism, if seen as they are and not through a distorting lens, bring the Reformation principles the support refused to them by the structure actually made for them." Ultimately, rapprochement and reunion between the Protestant movement and the Catholic Church would bring about "the full splendour [of] the Reformation"- it would be "a Reformation at last achieved".


Matthias said...

something more for me to think upon -the three options of Protestantism :
"1) reject all spiritual authority save the individual (Anabaptists, Quakers, etc.)
2) give spiritual authority to the civil authorities (Lutheranism)
3)create a new church artificially through the contrivance of an individual genius (Calvinism)"

Matt said...

Very interesting.

Did the "reformers" expressly or consciously accept nominalism, or is the argument that it had simply become a sub-conscious part of late medieval thinking?

I would be interested in your thoughts on why the doctrine of the Trinity survived this nominalist trend. Surely if a philosophy rejects the idea of essence, three persons = one god makes no sense.


GAB said...

The argument is that the categories of nominalism (and the philosophical implications of those categories) were basically taken for granted by everyone. They were part of the intellectual atmosphere. Ultimately, though, Catholic theologians, unlike the Protestants, got over them.

It's an interesting point you make about the Trinity. Of course, there were some Protestants who did reject the Trinity, and there still are (JWs, Unitarians, etc.) but that's never been the Protestant mainstream. I'm tempted to say the reason is the force of tradition, but that strikes me as special pleading.

Hmmm...I don't know.

I think it might be revealing to look at Barth in that regard and see how his Trinitarian theology compares with, say, Augustine or Aquinas. Bouyer regards Barth as very much in the same line as the Reformers philosophically, but I must confess that I am still only dabbling in Barth, dipping into him here and there.