In respect to the historical Reformation: It was over these two articles of justification — and its implications on the true meaning of imputation — and of Scripture that Christendom was fractured. The Reformers stated their positions to Rome in various writings and confessions of faith, and Rome eventually responded with the Seventh Session of the Council of Trent in 1547. During these sessions, Rome crystallized what formerly were its tacitly accepted positions on justification and authority — also officially repudiating Protestant doctrine. During these official declarations, Rome made a strident separation from Protestant Christians. Many present-day Roman Catholics and Christians say that we have overcome these issues and now can stand together as being of the same faith. From a doctrinal standpoint, this position is untenable, because the most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1995 (CCC Sections 80-82) affirms Rome’s positions as stated in the Council of Trent, various papal encyclicals and other conciliar statements. The pope, for all his public altruism, compassion and attempts at ecumenism, nonetheless adheres to the Council of Trent and the statements that condemn the principles of the Protestant Reformation.

In other words, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches still have a lot to discuss before we can — at least institutionally — all sit cross-legged around the fire pit singing Kumbaya.

I’ll digress to make another illustration. The Latin phrase post tenebras lux means “after darkness, light” and became the motto of the Protestant Reformation. The idea of “after darkness, light” could be said to resemble the idea put forth by 19th-century Restorationism, specifically, Mormonism, that the church of Jesus Christ fell into apostasy several centuries after the New Testament church was established, which was followed by a Restoration in A.D. 1830 — hence the theory of “Apostasy and Restoration.” No Protestant will deny that the Roman church fell into apostasy; but what we will vehemently deny is that this was to the extent that the gospel was thoroughly corrupted from the Bible and from the face of the earth, a notion that defies the promises of God (cf. Matthew 28:20, John 10:35, Revelation 14:6). Furthermore, Restorationism would have us believe that not only was God’s Word corrupted, but that additional inscripturated revelation — the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine & Covenants, etc. — and an appointment of new prophets was necessary to bring about this so-called “Restoration.”

There is a major distinction to be made here. During the Reformation, the Reformers acknowledged that they were not teaching anything new, but were merely recovering and teaching renewed fidelity to old truth that was preserved throughout time in Scripture (II Peter 1:19-21). “After darkness, light” was realized in the expression of truth as found in the Bible alone. Nineteenth-century Restorationism co-opted this principle of “truth recovery” in order to introduce new strains of error.

All this is to contend that after almost 500 years, far from being “irrelevant,” the historical Reformation principally is not even over yet.

church history, Reformation