A great many preachers, Protestant as well as Catholic, overlook the distinction between law and Gospel, thinking they can change people’s lives by giving them practical advice—as if telling them how to be inwardly transformed could help them do it. Augustine already knew better. Luther’s addition to Augustine’s insight is merely the glad recognition that there is indeed something preachers can do to help us be transformed: Instead of advice, they can give us Christ.
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Reformers recognized that those earlier believers were not inspired, were not inerrant, and, in fact, quite often made errors in their judgments and beliefs, just as people do today. The only infallible rule of faith, they argued, is found in the pages of Holy Writ. The big differences between Catholic and Protestant versions of sola scriptura are that Catholicism believes an authority in the form of the papacy is necessary along with tradition. One of the big ironies about sola scriptura is that the same arguments against Protestantism are used against the Orthodoxy by Catholicism. So between Orthodoxy and Catholicism you have two churches claiming the authority of tradition, and yet their authorities conflict with each other; their traditions conflict with each other. And yet, they laugh at Protestants.
The problem is that human wisdom is fallible, and not a sufficient foundation for believing anything about God. It is not sufficient to assume that when the New Testament speaks of tradition, it means tradition in the sense of the Roman Catholic or Orthodoxy way of understanding tradition. God’s Word needed to be written down to govern His people through all generations. And so it’s not surprising that this written Scripture became the standard for testing.
This is why I can appreciate Bishop Barron’s approach to Catholicism and the Reformation. I too think its better for Protestants and Catholics to find common doctrine to build on rather than create animosity. I do appreciate that he unlike other Catholic thinkers does acknowledge the faults in the Church when dealing with the reformers and not being receptive to the criticisms. I do think however that he does still tend to dance around some of the fundamental issues for the cause of the separation between the churches. Those fundamental issues being: purgatory, the mass, transubstantiation, indulgences, the treasury of merit, penance, the rosary, prayers to Mary, holy water, the papacy, and on and on. What you will find is that biblical exegesis does not support these traditions only a supposed Apostolic Oral Tradition.
I do enjoy the more traditional and liturgical aspects of Catholicism. I studied Latin from an early age and on a stay in Rome I had the pleasure of attending a Benedictine vespers. Very awe inspiring and actually made me want to consider the Catholic faith. However I did not make the switch mainly due to my reservations in the differing theologies.
As someone who is not Catholic I would say that historical continuity and institutional unity are not good enough reasons for me to switch. The distinctive and controversial doctrines or practices of the Roman Catholic Church are all stooped in historical tradition. Purgatory, the mass, transubstantiation, indulgences, the treasury of merit, penance, the rosary, prayers to Mary, holy water, the papacy, and on and on. What you will find is that biblical exegesis does not support these traditions. Furthermore just because the Catholic Church has reformed itself since Vatican II doesn’t take into account the hundreds of years of false interpretation and downright un-Christ-like teachings of the past. Especially when the historical past is their go to justification for their claim as the “true church.” While true the divisions post-Reformation are not ideal for Christ’s church, a unity for the sake of unity at the expense of Christ’s teachings is just as damaging.