Luther’s Two Kingdoms: Context

This post is part of our ongoing series on Luther’s Two Kingdoms

Sola ScripturaLooking at the broader context of Luther’s theology, we should note several tenets of his theological program that are vital to understanding his church-state construction. As outlined in Freedom of the Christian, perhaps foremost in Luther’s reformation theology was the importance of sola scriptura, that “true Christianity can be restored only if the authority of the word of God as found in Scripture alone replaces that claimed by ecclesiastical institutions, canon law, and medieval theology.”[8] Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith had implications for his political doctrine as well, as external works were viewed as the fruit of grace, and thus took on a character of service rather than necessity for salvation. The priesthood of all believers allowed Christians a personal and direct relationship with God. For Luther, any institution or doctrine that undermined these facets of man’s relationship to God must be destroyed. Understanding these doctrines as fundamental for Luther’s theology as a whole, J.M. Porter concludes concerning political ramifications that, “The three great Reformation doctrines serve as a prism through which Luther examines all dimensions of human existence, including the political.”[9] 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