Thursday, August 09, 2007

Reformed Rhetoric or Reformed Basics?

Tim Enloe at Reformed Catholicism has some concerns about the rhetoric of Reformed people and churches concerning Roman Catholics and Roman Catholic theology. When shifted, the gist of his complaint is that Reformed people do not take the time to understand the nuances of Romanism and that Reformed people cling to that desperate illusion of ‘Bible-onlyism’. Without shifting the post is a rant that shows Mr. Enloe has no real understanding of what the Reformation actually says. Maybe there is someone out there somewhere who fits his straw man, but I doubt it. It also shows that Mr. Enloe holds the fundamental tenants of Protesantism in contempt.

Here is a good sample of exactly what I mean:

here’s a particular one that bugs me of late. Reformed people very easily go off on diatribes against Rome’s "false Gospel," claiming that it "cannot save." Usually this is accompanied by horrific slurs of “Rome’s teaching” which are based on hopelessly inadequate categories of analysis derived from an utterly silly "Bible Onlyism" that blinds people to the complicated interfaces of history, culture, language differences, and philosophy with theology.

Hopefully we can all agree with Paul that false gospels do not save and that another gospel is really no gospel at all. I think Mr. Enloe would agree with that. It seems to me that Mr. Enloe is saying Rome is not teaching a false gospel and that such things are a slur against Rome. Why is it that most Protestants think that Rome teaches a false gospel? According to the post because we believe the Bible alone as the rule of faith, and do not hold to quadrilateral of Scripture-Tradition-Experience-Reason. This is the real objection of Mr. Enloe.

Take a look at some of the questions Mr. Enloe sets forth to remove us poor Protestants from our ‘sophomoric’ addiction to the Bible and rejection of tradition.

More importantly, what does it mean to say that “Rome’s Gospel doesn’t save”? For militant Bible-Onliers, where exactly in the Bible does it say that believing in the doctrines of the Reformation is "how" you get saved? If this is true, why didn’t the Apostles preach sola fide in the book of Acts?

What Reformed person on the planet thinks that believing the doctrines of the Reformation is "how" you get saved? In fact it is just the opposite. Rome thinks you must submit to the Pope (ie. believe what he believes) and be a member of the Roman Church to get saved, while the Reformed think we are saved by Jesus Christ alone through faith alone by grace alone. The whole debate about whether or not Rome’s gospel saves is because Rome and Geneva disagree on "how" one is saved. The instrument of the salvation is not belief in the doctrines of the Reformation, but rather faith is the sole instrument of salvation and in that point is where the debate lies. Mr. Enloe knows this as his assertion about Acts shows, but he puts it in the very inflammatory manner because it makes his case sound better.

As for Acts sola fide is preached by the apostles. Acts 2:38 has Peter telling the crowd "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." There is no notion of works plus faith here just turning from one’s sins to Jesus Christ. Note Philip’s requirement for the Ethiopian to be baptized in 8:37, "If you believe with all your heart [that Jesus Christ is the Son of God] you may." Faith is all that is required by Philip, who may not be an apostle, but is in the book of Acts. Notice how the preaching of Saul soon to be Paul is characterized in Acts 9:20, "Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God." Acts 15 has the Apostles and elders specifically reject the idea of law keeping as a necessary part of salvation. Peter calls it a yoke that ‘neither our fathers nor we are able to bear’ (v.10). Then of course we have the famous answer of Paul to the Philippian Jailor saying "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household" (16:31). I could go on.

One other question posed by Mr. Enloe deserves a bit of attention.

What does it mean to say that the Gospel was “recovered” at the time of “the” Reformation? If the Gospel is what saves, and if it was “lost” for so long, how was anyone between whatever point the loss occurred and the point of the recovery saved? Is Christianity thus like Mormonism, conceiving that True Faith was destroyed for hundreds and hundreds of years and then, poof!, shazam!, and abracadbra!, just recovered out of the blue at the point of our own little group’s founding?

Here I must give Mr. Enloe some credit. First, for using the word ‘shazam’ in a sentence. It has always been one of my favorite words. Second, because here he has a decent point. Some people do think that the gospel was completely lost, and those people are wrong. However, I think a better historical question for Mr. Enloe is does not the success of the Reformation show that the gospel never really disappeared? It is only recovered in the sense of something being taught from the top. The popes had lost the gospel, but it had never fully disappeared from the world. Take for example the Waldenses who cease to exist as a separate entity because their teachings were the same as the teaching of the Reformation because they both taught the Bible. Similar success was found among the many followers of Wycliffe. The history of the Medieval Church is a history of how the gospel survived and thrived especially in Southern France, Switzerland, and northern Italy, which all became hot beds of the Reformation. While Mr. Enloe is right to characterize some Protestants as dismissing almost all of history because they think anything pre-Reformation is wrong, that is not the case for most Protestants. History is on the side of the Reformation, and her doctrines.

All in all for a for a post about the poor state of Reformed Rhetoric, this post is laughable. It makes every error it charges to the Reformed. Mr. Enloe’s hostility will not abate because he does not truly want a change in Reformed Rhetoric, he wants the Reformed to abandon Sola Scriptura. Mr. Enloe’s problem is not with our speech, but with our theology. Hopefully next time he will just admit it and gets straight to the heart of the matter.