Reformation Day! and Evangelical-Catholic Unity

As we celebrate Reformation Day, the day that Martin Luther famously nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church (which is also Halloween, the day before All Saints Day), I think there are two things that every Protestant should stop and do:
1) Actually READ the 95 Theses. They arent that long, and you might be surprised how "catholic" they sound at times (of course, he is answering the sale of indulgences specifically).
2) Read this post from Protestant (calls himself "Reformed Anglo-Catholic) blog "Communio Sanctorum" putting forth Eight Theses for Evangelical-Catholic Unity. It is unfortunate that the Protestant "break" ever happened since Luther's intent was to purify not split the church; in fact many of his reforms have slowly crept into mainstream Roman Catholicism over the centuries and at this point I imagine most Protestants could at least agree to 5 or more of these 8 Theses for unity.

I like his first "thesis," on what we mean by "sola scriptura" (Scripture alone). I have been going around saying that I am not a good Protestant (or at least not a good Lutheran) because I don't think I believe in Sola Scriptura anymore, but rather in Prima Scriptura. The Bible is first, and most authoritative since it is revelation from God (his written word) in a way that no other writing is or could be, but it cannot be interpreted "alone" without the help of the whole Church's teachers and tradition. If you try "all alone" you get all the subjective chaos of American Protestantism. But if we qualify Sola Scriptura (perhaps "Sola Scriptura, sed non omnino sola" or something to that effect - someone check my rusty Latin here) then I can claim that.

I think he left out one. Protestants may also be able to agree that the five "other" sacraments (not accepted by Reformers as such) of ordination, matrimony, confirmation, confession, and annointing with oil CAN have a sacramental character (some of us already call them "sacramental rites" or "sacramentals") if Catholics can agree that they do not have the same prominence or status as Baptism and the Lord's Supper which were explicity commanded and practiced by Jesus himself in the canonical gospels (which the 5 others were not). I think we can do that.

Also, it would be good for your soul (be it Protestant or Roman Catholic - or Orthodox) to sing Luther's wonderful hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God" as loud as you can right now.

And if you are still ready to learn more then I recommend Luther's Treatises "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church" and "Letter to the German nobility" which reallly shed new light for me when I read them in seminary on the meaning of salvation "by faith" and the relationship between the Word/pledge/promise of God and our faith/trust/faithfulness. I think it interesting that in his early reform proposals, Luther suggests 3 sacraments - baptism, communion, and confession.

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Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I just want everyone to know how disappointed I am that nobody commented on my (I thought quite controversial) discussion of Sola Scriptura, and my (I thought quite witty) little Latin slogan...

4:42 PM, November 02, 2006  
Blogger Stephen said...

Alright I'll comment on the Sola Scriptura, however, this leaves me with 2 controversial posts on your blog and I probably haven't said anything encouraging to you in like 3 years. Seriously, I am not a negative person...so I hope.

Sola Scriptura does not mean we may interpret the Bible with an "unbridled spirit." This is why the reformers also taught hermeneutics. Sure, subjectivity is always a risk, and Luther was willing to take that risk. But if the right priniciples of interpretation are established then the laity would know how to check and balance interpretations. This is the essence of good Christian teaching: Enabling people to rightly handle the word of God and hold to the authority of the Bible alone--besides, I think the mark of a genuine believer is a love for truth as we long for and crave every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4; John 10)--Surely Luther modeled this as he held to Sola Scriptura, and so should we. Sola Scriptura is sobering as it includes the right to personal interpretation and the responsibility of accurate interpretation. After all, Sola Scriptura points to the authority of the Scripture and not the church.

Indeed, subjectivism is rampid in evangelicalism. I hate it too. However, I do not think the way to confront it is to abandon Sola Scriptura, but teach what it means to come under the authority of the Bible alone. As pastors we must model humility before our people by giving strong and consistent arguments from the Bible, thereby promoting the essence of Sola Scriptura.

My only reservation of "Prima Scriptura" is that many in our pluralistic society can "hold" primarily to Scripture and secondarily to the Koran. Sola Scriptura is strong and forceful. The way to check against fanciful, arrogant, and down right stupid interpretations is not to declare the clergy infallible (which is the very thing Sola Scriptura kicks against).

As far as the Latin thing goes, I have no clue. I was stupid in high school and took Spanish and a whole lot of good it did for me, considering I only remember 4 words. Latin would have been nice as it would have prepared me for Greek. Oh well.

So, there it is. I put in my two cents. I will be in Dallas December 7-10. If you are still in town on those dates, then we should get together for lunch on Sunday the 10th. Just email me.

11:21 PM, November 02, 2006  
Blogger あじ said...

Anointing is clearly in scripture and operative under the supervision of Christ himself. James commands it in his epistle also. I can't fathom how the reformers threw it out (time to dig out the history books I guess). My best guess is that Paul had no cause to write on it.

10:56 PM, October 30, 2009  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Dear recent commentor,

I believe the Reformers had several criteria that they used to separate the 2 Sacraments in the fullest sense of the word from the 5 other sacramental rites:

1 It must be something Jesus himself explicitly commanded in the Gospel for us to do.

2 It must be something Jesus himself participated in.

3 It must have an Old Covenant analogue (baptism/circumcision; Eucharist/Passover).

4 It must be a means of grace that is communicated through an outward and visible element.

5 I would also add that the 2 dominical sacraments are mentioned quite apart from any others and alluded to in various places - for example the blood and water that flow from Christ's side, or the mention of baptism and eucharist together in 1 Cor. 10, Jesus asking the Sons of Zebudee if they could drink his cup or endure his baptism in Mark 10 etc. - these things make it seem as though the earliest Christians had their imaginations captured by the 2 dominical sacraments in a unique way.

I think here annointing fails to meet a strict interpretation of the first 2 listed. Now we might reasonably reject these criteria. I think we ought to just have a sort of compromise position - 2 dominical sacraments (from the Lord) and 5 ecclesial (from the church) sacraments.

I certainly agree that annointing is a Biblical rite, with a sacramental nature (outward sign, inward grace) according to the word of God and that it is and out to be performed by the clergy of the Church (even among Protestants).

4:54 PM, November 02, 2009  

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