Understanding the differences between medieval Roman Catholicism and the Protestant Reformers is important because many of the core distinctions exist today. In the final week of September we have interviews planned with scholars to help further unpack the contemporary importance of the Protestant Reformation.
Today we post the comments of Scott Manetsch, associate professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In a recent book review (download pdf) he wrote it is “impossible to reconcile the classic Protestant solas with the teaching of the Catholic Catechism.”
Manetsch summarizes the differences well:
– For Roman Catholics, Scripture and Tradition are two distinct but equal modes of revealed authority which the magisterium of the Roman Church has sole responsibility to transmit and interpret. For the early Protestant reformers, the holy Scripture provides final normative authority for Christian doctrine and practice, standing as judge above all institutions and ecclesial traditions.
– For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified because of inherent righteousness. For the mainstream Protestant reformers, sinners are accepted on the basis of the righteousness of another―namely, the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to them.
– For Roman Catholics, sinners are both justified by unmerited grace at baptism and (subsequently) justified by those infused graces merited by cooperating with divine grace. For the magisterial reformers, sinners are justified before God by grace alone.
– For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified by faith (in baptism), but not by faith alone. For the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, sinners are justified by faith alone.
– For Roman Catholics, justification is a process of renewal that affords no solid basis for Christian assurance in this life. For reformers such as Luther and Calvin, justification is God’s decisive verdict of forgiveness and righteousness that assures Christian believers of the acceptance and love of their heavenly Father.
HT: Justin Taylor