Book Review: Decoding Nicea (Pavao)

Decoding NiceaThe history of Christianity can be a complex, confusing subject, full of competing claims and interpretations. Perhaps no single event in the life of the Church gathers as much contemplation and controversy as the Council of Nicea. Held in 325 CE outside of the newly established capital city of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), this gathering of Christians from around the Roman Empire has been called everything from the paragon of authentic Christian orthodoxy to the great corrupting moment in the history of the Church. In recent decades, Nicea has taken on a new place of prominence in the mind of the average American Christian, as both popular culture (i.e., Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code) and historical scholarship (i.e., Gnostic gospels) have cast the council as an important redefining moment for the Christian Church. Addressing this vital historical event comes the latest edition of Paul F. Pavao’s Decoding Nicea: Constantine Changed Christianity and Christianity Changed the World (Selmer, TN: Greatest Stories Ever Told, 2014. viii+442 pgs.). Continue reading

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Reflections on Vatican II

Vatican II (Calnewman.org)The Second Vatican Council (1962-5) stands apart as one of the single most important events of modern Church history, not only because of the number of Christians that the Church at Rome influences, but also because of the magnitude and depth of the canons of the council. While a thorough examination remains outside the parameters of our course, here we examine three of the most interesting and impactful sections of the Vatican II documents, those decrees on Indulgences, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Non-Christian Religions. Through our examination of these sections we will note the interesting connection of the Vatican II statements to the history of the Catholic Church. Continue reading

Roman Catholicism in the Nineteenth Century

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

The nineteenth century posed a number of unique challenges to the Roman Catholic Church, among them the continued rise of Protestantism, the increasing influence of modernism, the development of historical and biblical criticisms, and the rise in understanding of numerous world religions. Roman Catholicism developed a number of responses to these challenges, most notably through Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors and the canons of the First Vatican Council. In these writings, Rome affirmed the veracity of the tradition of the Church in opposition to the world, dogmatically affirming the accuracy and infallibility of the teachings of the Church and Pope. Continue reading

PRV2: Conclusions

This is the final post is our series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

Vatican City - 1Having examined Protestant reactions to the Roman Catholic conceptions of Divine Revelation and the Church, Non-Catholic Churches, the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom, what may we conclude? As noted before, the initial reactions of many Protestants to the Second Vatican Councils seemed to be generally positive in nature. As we have seen however, critical Protestant reactions to Vatican II are more nuanced. Some reactions are positive, such as that of Marty, who concludes that “for the most part, Vatican II appropriately addressed the anguishing circumstances of its time.”[1] Others are more caution, such as Patterson, who reacts with both joy and concern, especially regarding ubiquitous language about the primacy and infallibility of Rome.[2] Other reactions are more negative, such as those of Sproul and Duncan. The former writes that since Vatican II must be interpreted through Trent, there remain fundamental and dangerous misunderstandings of the council and the acceptability of its teachings for Protestants.[3] While noting that many Protestants view Vatican II positively, Duncan similarly notes that while there may be new levels of understanding between Protestants and Catholics, there are significant barriers to true unity and understanding.[4] Continue reading

PRV2: Other Issues

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

VT@While we cannot consider every facet of the Second Vatican Council that Protestant scholars have engaged, there are three remaining issues worthy of briefly considering here: reactions to Vatican II’s position on the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom. It is important to note with Martin Marty that during Vatican II very little was actually said concerning contemporary concerns such as female ordination and clerical celibacy, and thus many Protestant and Catholic differences on these issues are not directly the result of Vatican II.[1] The council did weigh in on several matters pertaining to priests however. In the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the council affirmed that celibacy was to be “embraced and esteemed as a gift” among priests. Additionally, priests were called to avoid greediness, to develop their spiritual lives, to engage the sacred scriptures and Church Fathers, to remain aware of current events, and to take vacation every year.[2] Such praxis-oriented concerns, combined with calls for lay participation in the ministry of the church, suggest a commitment to collegiality of all levels of church hierarchy.[3] This collegial view of the church includes the leveling of authority within the official hierarchy, though maintaining the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, including the restoration of the historical office of deacon.[4] However, significant differences continue to exist between Protestant conceptions of the priesthood of all believers and the Roman conception of a celibate clergy. Continue reading

PRV2: Protestant-Catholic Dialogue

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

VaticanAnother facet of the Second Vatican Council that has garnered a variety of responses from Protestant Christians involves those documents discussing the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian Churches. While not universally affirmed, the general perspective of Protestant scholars on this issue has affirmed the position taken by Vatican II. Clearly the council gave special attention to Eastern Orthodox churches, which until Vatican II were summarily ignored or feuded with by Rome, as in Orientalium Ecclesiarum the Eastern Church was acknowledged to have an antiquity, continuity, and ecclesial validity rivaling Rome itself.[1] Regarding Protestant-Catholic relations, Lindbeck argues that, despite of reports concerning numerous unintended consequences of Vatican II, the renewal of Protestant-Catholic relations remains very much an intended consequence of the council.[2] Indeed, he argues that the placement of Marian dogma within the constitution on the Church was an important step along the road of ecumenical Protestant engagement and an important step away from pre-Vatican II Marian maximalism.[3] Continue reading

PRV2: Divine Revelation and the Church

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

DeiVerbum_web-754736Dei verbum and Lumen gentium, the constitutions on Divine Revelation and the Church, respectively, remain two of the most discussed documents among Protestants responding to Vatican II. Historically such interest follows from the concerns of the Protestant Reformation, where early reformers often took issue with the Medieval Catholic Church’s conceptions of scripture and tradition as well the hierarchy and order of the church. Several Protestant scholars have affirmed Vatican II’s position on these issues. Writing on the Constitution of the Church, Patterson notes that the “Church is defined primarily as the People of God composed of various groups and including Bishops and laity. Historically the tendency has been to emphasize the hierarchical conception of the Church….”[1] Continue reading

PRV2: General Responses

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

Ariel VaticanHaving briefly noted a history of the council and some of the historical and methodological problems associated with this study, we may now turn to the Protestant reactions to the Second Vatican Council. Here we examine several areas of engagement: Broad Protestant Reactions to Vatican II, responses engaging the Church and Revelation, reactions concerning Protestants and Other Christians, and several other issues that remains outliers in the greater conversation. As noted before, this study argues that despite Protestant warming to certain Roman Catholic ideas stemming from Vatican II, there remain deep-seated concerns pertaining to the Roman Catholic conceptions of Divine Revelation and the Church. Continue reading

PRV2: Conciliar Context

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.
Vatican

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Before examining any specific reactions to Vatican II, we must negotiate several historical and methodological problems. The first is the issue of historical placement. Though nearly fifty years removed from the closing of the council, the chronological proximity of this study to the council itself urges a continual, cautioned examination of Vatican II. As Morgan Patterson rightly reminds us, to offer a final verdict on the council so near in time to council could be viewed as “presumptuous, not to say a hazardous exercise. Impressions lack time to be seasoned, documents are still being analyzed, and the event has not receded enough to give necessary perspective…. In the end, only history can be the final commentator on the impact and significance of this epochal event.”[1] Thus the scope and conclusions of this project are necessarily tempered due to their proximity to the events of Vatican II. Continue reading

Protestant Reactions to Vatican II: Introduction

Vatican II

Vatican II

Over the next two weeks, Pursuing Veritas will be offering an overview of Protestant Reactions to the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church.  This series is presented with at least one major caveat: Not every Protestant reaction to Vatican II has been examined — indeed, many of the most “interesting” were omitted due to their lack of critical credulity. Accordingly, this series does not pretend to speak for all Protestants (or even “Protestantism”, whatever that might mean). Instead, this series intends to provide some perspective on how “the other half” of Western Christianity has responded over the years to the watershed moment what is the Second Vatican Council. Continue reading