sanctification

This tag is associated with 7 posts

Book Review: “Evolution and Holiness: Sociobiology, Altruism, and the Quest for Wesleyan Perfection” by Matthew Nelson Hill

eh-hillMatthew Nelson Hill’s book, Evolution and Holiness might cause a great number of double-takes when it comes to the subject matter revealed in the subtitle: Sociobiology, Altruism, and the Quest for Wesleyan Perfection. Indeed, this is one of the more unique studies I have read.

Hill’s thesis is essentially that, granting the truth of human evolution, it is still possible to maintain the highest possible levels of belief in sanctification and holiness. To support this thesis, he examines the Wesleyan concept of holiness, which is essentially that humans can be made perfect in this life. He argues that, if evolution and Wesleyan holiness are not incompatible, then effectively any view of sanctification can be compatible with evolution. The reason for this conclusion is that Wesleyan holiness is largely agreed upon as the most stringent type of holiness, and so if it can past the test put forward by human evolution, other views ought to be able to as well.

Now that we have looked at the thesis of the book, it is important to take a step back. Hill is not concerned here with whether evolution is true, though it seems that he certainly would say it is. His concern is, instead, to see how this might impact the specific doctrine of sanctification. Thus, the book is not a critical analysis of either evolution or Wesleyan holiness (or any other variety). Instead, it is put forward as a defense of their compatibility.

Hill analyzes various theories of evolutionary psychology and the notion that we have “selfish genes” which determine our behavior. Though he offers a few critiques of these theories, his main aim is to see whether the truths of Christianity might overcome the deterministic aspects of these ideas. The filter through which these questions are analyzed is the concept of altruism. Hill argues that naturalistic evolutionary accounts cannot fully explain human altruism. Various proposed naturalistic mechanisms are examined and found wanting, though Hill admits they may offer partial explanations. Ultimately, however, Hill argues that Christianity offers a way around the alleged determinism of our behavior by genes. The power of the Holy Spirit may enable us to overcome the “selfishness” of our genetic lineage and the evolutionary struggle in order to seek to live holy lives. Christianity therefore offers a superior explanation of altruism, even within the strictures of evolutionary theory.

One difficulty throughout the book is the number of assumptions made that will be unpalatable or even irrational to readers. At one point (123-124), Hill simply states that mind is the product of the brain without any argument. He cites in a footnotes Daniel Dennett’s work, but that seems a weak reason to think that such an assumption is worth carrying on, particularly in light of powerful, convincing reasons to think that the mind not only is not but cannot be merely the workings of the brain. Of course, Hill may simply be making this assumption (one he seems to agree with) without argument because the stated purpose of the book basically grants the whole narrative of evolution, which most often includes some form of denial of substance (or other) dualism. Another place this happens is when Hill refers to a number of arguments from natural theology and apologetics as “God of the gaps” type arguments. He doesn’t specifically cite any argument, but it seems odd for him to throw out that phrase without singling out any specific argument as an instance of the type.

Evolution and Holiness is a book that stands unique in my reading experience. It meshes ideas that seem completely disparate into a coherent whole and challenges assumptions we might make regarding these differing ideas. Readers looking for critical interaction with these ideas will have to look elsewhere. Hill offers a synthesis, not a critique. Whether one agrees with his conclusions or not, I suspect they will find the book an interesting read.

The Good

+Unique topic exposes readers to many new ideas
+Deep look at central theses

The Bad

-Assumes without argument many unconnected points

Source

Matthew Nelson Hill, Evolution and Holiness (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2016).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Made Perfect in this Life?- A Lutheran reflection on Methodist sanctification– I analyze the notion of Wesleyan perfection from a Lutheran perspective.

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Made Perfect in this Life? – A Lutheran reflection on Methodist sanctification

sanctification-kapic

I was visiting a United Methodist Church and the pastor preached on the doctrine of sanctification. She referenced the affirmation within the Methodist church that Christians can receive perfection in this life.

I’ve been curious about this assertion for some time, and I decided to explore some more. On the United Methodist Church’s website, in the section entitled “Our Wesleyan Heritage,” sanctification is defined, in part:

We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin. (accessed here)

The embedded link sends readers to a sermon from John Wesley. In that sermon, he talks about what he means by being made perfect in this life. He distinguishes between what, in his view, is not attainable in this life regarding perfection, as well as what is attainable. Christians, he argues, are not made perfect in knowledge in this life, nor will they become free from making mistakes, nor from illness, nor from temptations. Instead, Christian perfection in this life will lead to various blessings:

First, not to commit sin… Secondly, to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers…

Wesley, of course, goes into much more detail than that, and defends his positions from various objections. The length of the sermon makes it prohibitive for a detailed interaction, so I just want to focus on these aspects of Wesleyan/Methodist sanctification.

Sanctification Over Time?

The notion of achieving perfection over time is something that causes difficulty because it makes sanctification a biographical account. To clarify, a quote from Oliver O’Donovan in his chapter in the book Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice entitled “Sanctification and Ethics,”- “Sanctification understood biographically [as occurring over the span of a life] has given encouragement to a belief in progressive and incremental moral improvement, to be attained with maturity and age” (155, cited below).

The implication of a view of continual sanctification that is progressive leads to the assumption that a more mature Christian ought to also be more sanctified. Yet this may lead to failed expectations related to the Christian life. If one is led to expect perfection in this life, and they continue to find themselves simul iustus et peccator (to borrow a very Lutheran phrase: simultaneously justified and a sinner [or a sinner and a saint, as it has come to be said]), they may lose their assurance of hope not just in sanctification but also in salvation. After all, their expectations of the Christian life are undercut.

It may be answered that the proper interpretation of Wesley is, rather, that he argued for instantaneous perfection. But this is a debate for a different time. (See the book Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice for chapters related to this topic.)

A Lutheran Interaction

The Lutheran Confessions make it clear that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (Formula of Concord, Article III, paragraph 41). In the Large Catechism, Luther refers to the basics of what could be considered a Lutheran view of sanctification:

…because holiness has begun and is growing daily, we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, will be buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. Now, however, we remain only halfway pure and holy. The Holy Spirit must always work in us through the Word, granting us daily forgiveness until we attain to that life where… there will be only perfectly pure and holy people… (The Large Catechism, Second Part, section 57-58)

Thus, a Lutheran perspective of sanctification sees humans as part holy and part sinful. But what are we to make of this? Here, perhaps, is where the Methodist and Lutheran view of sanctification may split most sharply, for the Lutheran will note that what makes us holy is the Spirit through Word and Sacrament. That is, through the taking of Holy Communion and the receiving of absolution, we are daily made holy by the Spirit of God. Thus, holiness is, yes, in part works driven and completed by the Spirit, but it is also and perhaps mostly that which we gain through participation in the community of Christ, the church. For Lutherans, Word and Sacrament stand paramount.

Some object to this Lutheran position, charging Lutherans with a kind of antinomianism. After all, it can’t be that easy, right? Yet on the Lutheran view, sanctification is ongoing, but not in the sense that we discussed above. Instead, it is something that the Spirit works continually for us. Moreover, though the topic is hotly debated in Lutheran circles, the notion of the “third use of the law”–as a guide for Christian life–helps curb antinomianism and turn the Christian back to Christ for forgiveness.

Conclusion

I believe I have more to learn in this area, and I am interested to read on the topic further. I have a book on the topic I’m currently reading, so I’m hoping this will give me some more insight into the fascinating topic. For now, it seems to me that the primary division between the Lutheran and Methodist view here is centered not so much on the concept of perfection now (though that is an intriguing topic to explore), but rather on a view of sanctification through the Sacraments.

Sources

Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000).

Oliver O’Donovan, “Sanctification and Ethics” in Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited by Kelly M. Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

Other sources are linked above.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for posts on Star Trek, science fiction, fantasy, books, sports, food, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Sunday Quote!- Sanctification and Vocation

sanctification-kapicEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Sanctification and Vocation

I’ll admit at the outset that I have read very little on the topic of sanctification. Thus, Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice was a kind of blessing–a book that introduced some major topics and debates related to the doctrine of sanctification. Among the many insights, one offered by Oliver O’Donovan was particularly striking. He notes that Christians often see sanctification as a process-over-time and thus assume that believers will come to be more sanctified over time. Against this, he argues:

Sanctification understood biographically has given encouragement to a belief in progressive and incremental moral improvement, to be attained with maturity and age… The map [of constant progression towards final sanctification over one’s life] was indeed wrong. It confused the work of God, who sanctifies old age as he sanctifies childhood, youth, and maturity, with the more attractive features that may decorate the progress of years through unaided nature… why, one wonders, has indulgence been accorded to the doctrine that the elect commit only venial sins after the age of fifty? (155)

I think this question is spot-on. The notion that we as Christians simply are automatically on a linear path to complete sanctification does not match reality and indeed can be extremely damaging to the life of faith. We are sinner-saints who struggle with sins throughout our lives and we must cast our cares on God, ever trusting in the blood of Christ and work of the Spirit to cleanses us from sin and unrighteousness.

What thoughts do you have on sanctification in the life of the believer? How might we be sanctified?

Whatever your views, Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice was a very insightful read well worth the time. I recommend it highly.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

“Sanctification and Ethics” by Oliver O’Donovan in  Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited Kelly Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Sanctification by Faith Alone?

sanctification-kapicEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Sanctification by Faith Alone?

Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice is a thought-provoking collection essays on, well, sanctification. This is a topic I find very interesting and one which seems to need more focus and development in systematics.

One of the chapters, Richard Lints argues that sanctification is something that we receive by faith alone–in contrast to views which argue that it is some later co-operation between the Spirit and the believer to do good works. I hope I’m not misrepresenting his view, as I admit I have read very little on the topic. Thus, I’ll let him make his argument for himself:

The gospel is received rather than achieved by believers, and thus all the benefits given in the gospel are received by faith. The gift of the Holy Spirit is one of those “benefits” and no less than other gifts given in the gospel, so the Holy Spirit is received by faith… And therefore sanctifying faith is not different in its orientation than justifying faith. (44)

What do you think? Is this a good argument for the view that sanctification comes through faith alone? If so, how are works involved in sanctification? What is your view of sanctification overall?

Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice was a welcome read that introduced me to a host of topics, some of which I wasn’t even aware of before. I recommend it highly.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

“Living by Faith–Alone?: Reformed Responses to Antinomianism” by Richard Lints in  Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited Kelly Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

Really Recommended Posts 5/2/14- Hitler’s Philosophers, Lutheranism, and more!

post

I’ve once more gone through the internet archives to bring together a slew of awesome posts for you, dear readers! Let me know your thoughts, and feel free to share links you’ve enjoyed. I may even put them on an upcoming RRP!

Why I was Once an Atheist– Pastor Matt was a PK–a pastor’s kid–(like me!) and he had some expereinces in the church which led to his atheism. Reading his thoughts provides insight into what we can do better for our children and beyond.

Sanctification– Imagine a woman hearing these words: “The guys just don’t feel like they would be able to lead you spiritually…” What follows from a view in which men spiritually lead women without question? What roles do men and women play? 

Why Pro-Life People Need to Become Amateur Philosophers– It is important to have some philosophical knowledge in order to make the case for the pro-life position. Here, some basics are covered with relevance for the issue.

Ways to be Lutheran– How are Lutheran splinter denominations working? What developments and trends are forming in the U.S.? An interesting background for Lutheranism in the United States. I thought it was worth the quick read.

Review: Hitler’s Philosophers by Yvonne Sherratt– What philosophical motivations lay behind Hitler’s activities? This interesting book review talks about some of them. What are your thoughts?

Bruce Gordon: problems with inflationary multiverse cosmologies– What of the multiverse? Might there be evidence for it?

Disney’s “Frozen”- A Christian reflection

disney-frozenDisney’s “Frozen” has generated quite a bit of buzz, and for good reason. The movie is a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s a delight to watch, and it is filled with interesting thematic elements and humor. Moreover, as a Minnesotan, I feel right at home during this winter. Here, I’ll evaluate the movie from a worldview perspective. There will, of course, be SPOILERS hereafter.

Balance

The core of the tension in the movie is found in Elsa’s power. Her parents try to teach her to restrain it, but when put under duress, her power breaks free and she fled the castle. Interestingly, one may note that the total denial of her capability led to her cutting herself off from those who surround her.

Once she leaves the castle, she decides to break free of her self-restraint. The Oscar-nominated song “Let it Go” is indicative of this. Elsa sings:

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go!
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

It is interesting to see that there must be some balance between the two extremes. Elsa’s self-imposed restrictions upon her powers led to the separation from those she loved; her release endangers the entire kingdom. Her life, instead, must be lived along a balance. I can’t help but think of the words of Paul:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.

Christian freedom is a freedom with restraint. There must be balance in the process of sanctification.

Women

Many have hailed “Frozen” for its portrayal of women. Neither Anna nor Elsa have a relationship foisted upon them for the main purpose of the plot. Anna’s developing relationship with Kristoff is made even more interesting by the contrast to her obsession with Prince Hans. Both women are independent. Some tongue-in-cheek humor could be found in the striking way in which both Kristoff and Elsa noted that Anna’s willingness to marry a man she just met that day was a bit absurd.

The plot is not driven by a love story; instead, it is driven by the need for reconciliation. Powerful, strong women are the ones who push the plot forward, while the men are sometimes helpful and even featuring shades of prince charming (Kristoff) or villainous and greedy (Hans). It is not that the portrayal of men is negative (as I just noted, there is a spectrum of motivations for the men involved); rather, it is that women are not seen as incapable of action. It is refreshing.

Our Own State

Elsa herself, far from being the quintessential villain, is someone with whom we may be capable of sympathizing. Like her, we are in a serious predicament brought about by our own actions: we live in need of aid. Our actions have sometimes horrific consequences. At other times, our consciences convict us of the wrongness of our deeds. We long to sing along with Elsa, crying out to “Let it Go” and stop caring anymore. But, like her, we realize that such a state is ultimately not be lauded but to be feared. We lash out at those we love due to our own guilt. Can there be salvation?

Christ

Interestingly, some have argued that the movie actually serves as an allegory of Christ. It is Anna who is wronged by Elsa, but it is only Anna who is able to right the wrong. The person who is wronged is the one who must make it right. Similarly, for the Christian, it is God who is wronged, but God is the only one capable of righting that wrong in the perrson of Christ. (I am here paraphrasing the post I linked to.)

The themes noted above come to fruition here. Our state is characterized by a recognition of the wrongness of our actions, but an incapability of bringing about the reconciliation required. Thus, it is up to the party wronged to bring about this reconciliation, through the true forgiveness offered in Christ.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Disney’s Frozen might be the most Christian movie lately– This post reflects upon the movie as an allegory of Christ. As noted, I derived much of the last section from the argument made in this post.

The Image featured in this post is the intellectual property of Disney. I make no claims to ownership and have used it under fair use for the purpose of critical evaluation of the film. To my knowledge the image is freely available as promotional material.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The Church Universal: Reformation Review

Perhaps the most crucial debate of the Reformation Era was over the nature of the universal church. During the Reformation, the church had split into numerous separate bodies. But were each of these bodies truly “the church”? Was salvation only found through membership in the Catholic Church? Finally, how did one determine what church bodies were part of “the church” if there were some new criterion for establishing what counted as “the church”? Having found their origins prior to the Reformation and a spectrum of answers during the Reformation, these questions continue to be debated into our own time.

The Church Universal

The key to understanding the emerging doctrine of the church within the Reformation is to note a distinction in meanings for “apostolic continuity.” On the one hand, one could note a literal apostolic continuity in which the authority of the Apostles themselves was passed from one person to another. On the other hand, some argued that the authority of the church was found in continuity with apostolic doctrine, not with a literal continuity of passed-on authority (McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction 141ff, cited fully below).

The Protestants began to view church authority as a consequence of right doctrine. This view allowed them to divorce themselves from the Roman Catholic church (and thus potentially lose the literal passing down of authority from one to another from the apostles) while still maintaining that their own churches remained part of the church universal.

Yet this was not the only question facing those trying to distinguish which churches were “true” as opposed to “false” churches. Surely there ought to be some signs of a “true church” to distinguish it from those that had fallen away. Martin Bucer and Martin Luther offered ways forward on this: the marks of the church. Luther insisted that what made a true church was “right administration of the sacraments and true preaching of the Gospel” while Bucer held that there was a third mark: discipline (Diarmaid MacCulloch The Reformation, 181, cited below).

The Background to the Reformation Debate

Alister McGrath notes how important it is to note the origins of the reformation debate regarding the church here. Specifically, the debate can be traced back to the Donatist controversy in the earlier church (third century). Essentially, this controversy centered around the very nature of the true church. The Christian church had been persecuted, and many had renounced their faith in order to avoid persecution. The question was asked: should these persons be allowed back into the true church? Could they still administer the sacraments and interact with the true body of Christ?

The Donatists said that those who had lapsed had become apostate and could not be allowed back into the church. However this belief was eventually considered to be incorrect and detrimental to the unity of the Church. Augustine argued against the Donatists and pointed out how the church is a “mixed body” of sinners and saints (McGrath, 144ff).

The concept of a sinner-saint was utilized by Martin Luther and other Reformers to note that the church was a body in which the Holy Spirit was actively working sanctification. That is, God was working to make the Church holy, but that did not mean that each individual in the church was absolutely devoid of sin.

How did all of this fit into the Reformation discussions on the true church? Simply put, the Donatists were radically schismatic. They sought to divorce themselves from “sinners” within the church. The Donatists were condemned for their schismatism, and so the Reformers had  to deal with the fact that they themselves had either been forcibly removed from or split from the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, the importance of apostolic authority through theological unity became central in understanding the continuity of the Church.

The Modern Debates

The notion that right doctrine delineates the true church as opposed to literal apostolic continuity has a number of interesting outcomes which are very relevant for today’s church bodies.

First, it introduces a great difficulty for many church bodies in determining with whom one can fellowship. If the authority of the church universal is based upon true teachings rather than a passing down of authority from one person to another, then where is the line for how much teaching must be correct in order to remain as the true church?

Different church bodies offer different answers. Some church bodies err on the side of openness and humility and allow many into their fold who hold radically differing views. People in these organizations may hold to different views on things like the ordination of women, the age of the earth, and the like. Other church bodies err on the side of unity in doctrine and restrict membership to those that affirm sound doctrine as taught by their own body. For these church groups, a certain creed or body of work is referenced as the authoritative teaching of the church. If one differs from these teachings, then one is not part of their church body. (For more on the notion of using creeds or bodies of teachings as authoritative interpretations, see my post on “Who Interprets Scripture? Sola Scriptura, the Reformation, and the modern era.”)

To be frank, some Christians fail to recognize the diversity of these answers and simply assume that anyone who has a differing organizational structure is “liberal” or “conservative”–using the words in a derogatory manner. Such an attitude does not contribute to discussions on church organization. By failing to recognize the commendable attitude of humility in the churches that emphasize the unity of faith as opposed to the unity of individual doctrines, some unfairly label other church bodies as unbiblical or apostate. Similarly, by failing to recognize the commendable need for unity of belief in church bodies that emphasize right belief, some unfairly label these church bodies as schismatic or unchristian.

It also seems to me that both of these groups should learn from each other. Too many church groups vary too far one way or the other on these issues. Church bodies that emphasize humility in doctrine can often undermine their own church’s teachings. Similarly, church bodies that emphasize unity in doctrine can undermine their capacity for outreach and cooperation with other church bodies.

The Roman Catholic Church, following Vatican II, officially viewed non-Catholic churches as separated brethren–other bodies of true believers who were practicing independently. Such an affirmation ultimately undermines part of the debate that has raged since the Reformation: are Protestants saved, according to Roman Catholic teaching? This debate was hot during the Reformation and beyond, as the Roman Catholic church continued to deny salvation outside of the Catholic Church. Now, however, it is acknowledged that salvation can be found within Protestant circles as well.

Finally, the options Luther and Bucer offered to describe the “marks of the church” continue to be extremely important. Bucer’s emphasis on independent church discipline has–insofar as I can tell–largely fallen by the wayside, though it remains a point of interest in Anabaptist and other traditions. Although I would be hesitant to make a structured church discipline one of the marks of the true church, it would appear to be greatly important to have a system for disciplining those within the church who do not adhere to basic moral and/or doctrinal norms. However, this must be consistent with the notion that all believers are sinners being formed into saints through the process of sanctification. The modern church in the West perhaps does not have enough emphasis on the importance of church discipline, but caution should be taken so that a reform in this area does not lead the church back to a Donatist-like position.

Conclusion

So what makes a church a true church? The Reformers do still speak to us on this issue. Continuity with apostolic teaching is that which designates a true church. It is not easy to know where to draw the line between unity and humility, but over-emphasizing either leads to great difficulties for a church body. Of utmost importance, however, is the acknowledgement that though not all church bodies agree on every topic (there’s an understatement!), these church bodies are part of the saving body of Christ and therefore part of the salvific work of the Holy Spirit. Remembering this simple fact might help to spur on a bit of humility and unity among the Church Universal.

Links

Please check out my other posts on the Reformation:

I discuss the origins of the European Reformations and how many of its debates carry on into our own day.

The notion of “sola scriptura” is of central importance to understanding the Reformation, but it is also hotly debated to day and can be traced to many theological controversies of our time. Who interprets Scripture? 

Sources

Alister E. McGrath a, Reformation Thought: An Introduction (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Diarmaid MacCulloch The Reformation (New York: Penguin, 2003).

Image: credit to Beatrice- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:San_Pietro_e_Ponte_SAngelo_(notte).jpg

Thanks

Alister McGrath’s Reformation Thought: An Introduction was a gift from an anonymous donor. I was blown away when I saw it show up at my door and I have to say Thank you so much for being such a blessing! Whoever you are, you made my day. Well, more than just one day actually. This series of posts is a direct result of your donation. Thank you!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,558 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason