Just five hundred years

Any one familiar with Luther’s 95 Theses, and who are aware of the history of the times, would agree that the Catholic Church needed substantial reformation. Its power over the secular world and its greedy financial appetite were inexcusable. And these outcomes were the fruit of a substantial loss of the holiness that should be one of the marks of the Church. As Lord Acton, commenting on the Renaissance popes, famously said: “All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

But, at the quincentenary of Luther’s famous protest (Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum 31 October 1517), we should be aware that, at the heart of the Lutheran Reformation, there was a clear theology. We may, or may not, agree with it but we should not dismiss it. In our vocation to understand the truth we may find new insights in those with whom we disagree. And that goes both ways.

Luther put the highest value on the grace of Christ. He held that the human race was irrevocably damaged through Original Sin and so could do nothing to help itself. But if it believed and accepted with certainty the grace of Christ as the sole source of goodness and redemption, the bounty of undeserved grace would bring us to Paradise. We are not holy, nor can we ever be holy while we are in our corrupted bodies: Christ’s grace is all. From this foundational principle a number of doctrines emerge.

It might be logically supposed that we have no responsibility for our bad actions and so are freed from the obligation of leading a good life. If our certainty of redemption is all that is required then our morality is not required. But the conclusion is more subtle than that: it is not our morality which we choose but Christ’s morality working itself out through us. We do not say: ‘That’s a good man’, but we say ‘That’s a fallen man, through whom Christ is expressing his goodness.’ There is no such thing as human good works, nor can there be a human freedom of will to choose them.

The seven sacraments, which Catholics describe as ‘outward signs of inward grace’, must be severely pruned. Baptism, as the ritual sign of the presence of Christ’s redemptive promise, and the Eucharist as a sign helping us to realise redemption more fully continue. They are reminders. The remainder have no place.

The whole edifice of Purgatory, together with Indulgences, penances and the rest are wiped off the book. As soon as we die, leaving the corrupted body behind, we are taken into Christ’s redemption. The evil is left behind.

And it must follow that the whole teaching Church with its authorities and its theologians interpreting and developing doctrine must be ignored: the teachers themselves are corrupted by sin, and their proclaimed truths and rules are of no value. The only source of truth which God has given us is Scripture: the phrase sola scriptura and sola fides are born.

This is a very brief account of Luther’s theology, and I would value comments, disagreements, reactions and fuller explanations. I am in debt to Richard Rex, Professor of Reformation History at Cambridge. See his article in the Tablet (14 October). Needless to say that he has no responsibility for the views I express here. His book, The Making of Martin Luther, is now published by Princeton Lutheran Press.

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63 Responses to Just five hundred years

  1. twr57 says:

    Sola scriptura? Self-validating? Or in itself contradicting sola fides? The epistle of James asks for evidence of works to prove faith.
    I’ve a feeling that we may be quoting more biblical texts in this discussion than we usually do on SecondSight.

  2. Alasdair says:

    Works do not provide sure evidence, in any case, of faith to an outside observer nor is such evidence required. James is providing us with a means of self-reflection. If I have no works, I need to ask myself “why is the Spirit not working within me to produce works?” – do I indeed have faith and am I saved? The works are in and of themselves not the means of salvation – merely a “quality indicator”.
    (Clearly I am a evangelical christian. Only comparatively recently though was I made unaware that I was a “protestant”, having not ever heard that word outside the school history class, or in the context of bizarre sporting affiliations).

    • Quentin says:

      “Evangelical” translates semantically into “good news”. And all Christians are proclaimers of this. Its modern usage of course suggests that the only source of knowledge is Scripture. There is a problem here because Scripture itself records Christ’s founding of his Church, through the Apostles, and giving it authority to teach. You might want to address this.
      Catholic belief goes beyond the idea that good works are merely markers of Christ’s grace. It teaches that we have the privilege of actually personally contributing to the Redemption. Of course this is only done through Christ’s grace. “I live, now not I, Christ lives in me.” (S. Paul) It is a mystery of course, and we cannot understand how we can be truly holy through embracing the holiness of Christ. We are to be Christs in time and space to everyone. Unfortunately few of us live up remotely to this vocation. It is of course summed up in the exhortation that we should love God and love our neighbour.

      • Alasdair says:

        Yes Q you are quite right in what you say. I would slightly expand the modern usage of Evangelical (capital E) to say that, in my opinion, the only source of “knowledge which is 100% worthy of belief and beyond reproach” is scripture. One is perfectly free to believe the things that other christians believe, if indeed one believes them and has confidence in the source, and these things may well be true. In that case would you still be Evangelical? I don’t know, would it matter?
        PS I’m enjoying the ongoing discussion

      • Quentin says:

        Your statement “the only source of “knowledge which is 100% worthy of belief and beyond reproach” is scripture.“ does raise a question. To take an obvious example: we know that the world was not created in six days, notwithstanding the description in Genesis. We can easily explain that this is not supposed to be a literal account. But to conclude that we have to make an interpretation. In fact much of scripture requires interpretation. The Catholic Church claims that it has the authority to interpret scripture, and although it can be wrong (as it was for centuries about the timetable of creation) it is more likely to be right than our own interpretations. (Ironically much modern interpretation relies on the work of Protestant experts.) So “100% worthy of belief” seems to require some rather extensive qualifications, does it not?

  3. Geordie says:

    There is no doubt that the Church was in need of reform in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Luther would have been canonised as a saint by now if he had not added his own interpretation of the Bible and Tradition in his later writings.
    Luther’s translation of the Bible from the Greek says that we are saved by Faith alone. The word “alone” was his own addition. It doesn’t appear in the Greek version. He also derided St James’s epistle as “straw” because it did not support his beliefs. He opened the gates for anyone to interpret the Bible in any way they wished and to cherry-pick the bits that supported their ideas. However Luther did not like it when they disagreed with his version.

  4. galerimo says:

    Setting aside the great achievement of putting the scriptures into the hands of the plain folk of Germany and the prophetic call to the Catholic Church for renewal, which was finally heard, with Vatican II–my take on Luther’s most significant contribution was his attempt to explain salvation.

    And it remains just as big a mystery to us today. How are we saved? And, What is Salvation?

    Even with Sola Scriptura Luther had no problem with the Early Church Fathers, St. Augustine, Nicea and Constantinople.

    Divinity and humanity had to be formulated so as to make salvation theologically possible by Jesus. So, at the heart of these early conciliar struggles was the question of salvation – how could Jesus be “fit for task”.

    Nicea and Constantinople gave us the handle on Jesus as true God and true man – that gave him the proper qualifications for Redeemer. But they left us without any real grasp of what salvation means. How it is achieved was not addressed. It merely was associated with the incarnation (“for us men and for our salvation … he became incarnate”) Luther, I think, struggled with that.

    The same models of salvation available to Luther remain. Recapitulation (Paul), Divine Education (Irenaeus), Ransom (Augustine) and Satisfaction (Anselm). In his struggle for meaning around salvation Luther put a much-needed focus on “how” it is achieved but “what it means to be saved” remains as big a mystery today.

    Maybe it is impossible to shape this essentially eschatological mystery into any framework of thought. I believe Luther leaves us with the challenge to try to do so. While salvation,as the raw generosity of God, will always defy any understanding, the search after its meaning certainly lay at the heart of Martin Luther’s work and often tormented life. Is there a fifth model?

  5. G.D. says:

    ” it is not our morality which we choose but Christ’s morality working itself out through us. ”
    And Jesus said ‘it is accomplished’.

    I wonder if we don’t/can’t ‘know’ it because our ‘fallen’ nature still rules our perceptions? In letting go of our habitual ways of seeing and knowing we can see and know?

    Maybe the Redemption is not as a re- ‘payment’ for our faults, but as a means of revealing, a way of accepting/returning to, our original ‘state’ of union?

    Maybe the whole of history, not just the time of the Passion & Crucifixion, is the ‘place/state’ where that accomplishment is being made manifest and accepted (through grace) by all of creation?
    Our (creations) journey through this ‘mortal coil’ as the ‘working through’ to that accomplishment, manifested in time by Jesus the Christ, for Eternity?
    Would an unconditionally loving God create anything less? Demand anything less of creation?

    And i would speculate wildly, that our ‘mortality’ continues after death, in a more ‘spiritual’ way until it is accepted. ( I realise, [John!] that is not grammatically correct by accepted definitions).

    Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) asked Jesus in her famous thirteenth showings, ‘O good Lord, how can all be well when great harm has come to your creatures through sin?’ And here I wanted, if I dared, to have some clearer explanation to put my mind at rest.” And he said, “Since I have brought good out of the worst-ever evil, I want you to know by this; that I shall bring good out of all lesser evils, too.”

    Needless to say …. i conjecture do not assert … even though the above does make perfect sense to me; and makes the question ‘how’ secondary to the revealed ‘meaning’ of Salvation.
    And takes nothing away from our gradual ‘development’ from ‘fallen’ to resurrected’.

    The ‘journey’ of mortal creation is the realisation of the original creation as God accomplished it. Already, my Life.

    We experience past present and future, because of our ‘fall’. When we allow (choose?) Christ’s Resurrection to manifest through us ….. We ‘experience’ … Salvation … as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Grace.

  6. Iona says:

    Was it Luther who decided certain books should be dropped from the Bible (including Maccabees, which contains the only – as far as I know – biblical justification for belief in purgatory?) If so, how could he reconcile that with “sola scriptura”?

  7. John Thomas says:

    Thanks for this summary, Quentin, that you have recounted for us (more than I knew, and I did church history as part of a theology degree.) I strongly believe and say (as on my own website) that being a Christian involves holding together, or living within, certain tensions, or contradictions, and forming a balance; there are many of these (one’s concern with this world and the people in it, and our concern with the next, personal destiny, is just one). Thus receiving salvation by faith, not works is one (which I strongly believe in) which has to be held in tension with the constant New Testament exhortation to do good. As Alastair suggests here (comment, above) the NT has the Epistle of James as well as those of Paul. Constantly, Jesus’s words suggest personal responsibility (moral choice = freedom to choose), but still, it seems to say, our salvation cannot be acquired by our actions, but only by his. Our original flawed nature is only an inherent tendency to badness, not something which makes us always behave badly in all circumstances – I’m no Calvinist (they believe in Total Depravation). Only “Universalism” – we all go to some place very good, however evil our this-worldly actions – is truly amoral. I suppose that this is my Anglicanism coming out – I think I can have it ALL ways, pick and choose – heir to the Reformation AND Catholicism … But I do think that if anyone veers too far in any one direction on the spectrum, and loses BALANCE, they’re in real danger.
    Those Renaissance princes of the Church may have been a dodgy lot – but think of the fabulous art/architecture their iniquities produced, bequeathed to us.

    • John Thomas says:

      Calvinism – I think I meant “Total depravity”. The tenets of Calvinism are known by the mnemonic TULIP, T for “Total depravity” (I forget what the others are).

  8. John Nolan says:

    ‘Its power over the secular world’ (Quentin on the Catholic Church at the beginning of the 16th century). This needs a lot of qualification, but the effect of the Reformation was to exalt the secular power over the spiritual – think Henry VIII, and the Peace of Augsburg with its maxim of ‘cuius regio, eius religio’.

    Any Catholic can see the extent to which Luther’s theology was orthodox, and to which extent it was heterodox; so what?

    It is also tendentious, not to mention inaccurate, to speak of ‘a substantial loss of holiness’ simply by reference to a number of Renaissance popes. Twenty-five years ago Eamon Duffy laid to rest this piece of Protestant propaganda, to which we have all been subject. His latest book ‘Reformation Divided’ is a must-read.

    Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) might not be in the first league when it comes to holiness (although he was personally devout), yet he was doctrinally orthodox, which is more than can be said for his current successor.

    • John Thomas says:

      Yes, I’ve realised, this morning, that Henry VIII was the first Brexiteer, in that the kings/rulers of that time were seeking individual political independence, and struggling against (what they saw as) enforced membership of a Europe-wide state-like thing. Henry was more than happy with the Catholic religion – it was just his lack of personal immunity from Rome that did it. Indeed, some anti-EU people used to point to the fact that what became the EU originated from the treaty of ROME.

  9. Nektarios says:

    I remember hearing of a friend, who while on a train journey chatted with a fellow passenger. The passenger said, what we need today is another Reformation. This friend replied, Yes, that is all very well, until be find out what exactly do we mean by a Reformation?

    The long history of the Christian Church, is not one ascending and getting better all the time. No, the fact is, it has gone through many ups and downs, persecutions, wars and reformations &c.

    The Waldensians in Northern Italy went through a Reformation many years previous to the Reformation of the 16th century with Martin Luther.
    Let us remind ourselves, these people including Luther were all Roman Catholics. Luther did not advocate leaving the Roman Catholic Church at all, he wanted to reform it and curb it from its worst excesses and additions.

    If we are going to get some comprehension of what a Reformation truly is, it is first and foremost an action of the Holy Spirit. Read all about it in the Book of Acts. from the day of Pentecost and consequent days that followed and the template of what a Christian Church is and how it should operate one to another and in this world. Wherever revival or Reformation has truly taken place, without exception it is always meant a return to Scriptures and the Doctrine, Teaching and Practice laid down by the Holy Apostles.

    I often wonder if my Christian brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church realise why God sent a mighty revival or Reformation with Luther and others in the 16th century? To see just how bad and corrupt it had become, how it managed to rule over every aspect of peoples lives I suggest one Google, SANTOS BONACCI on youtube.
    Is there need for God to send a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit to come in reviving power, bringing us a gain back to the Apostolic template of the Christian Church?
    Historically concerning the Roman Catholic Church this guy is on the button, but there are other areas I may not agree with him.
    This why there was a reformation in the first place sent by God to revive an ailing Chuch.

  10. Alasdair says:

    >>Quentin says:
    November 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm
    Your statement “the only source of “knowledge which is 100% worthy of belief and beyond reproach” is scripture.“ does raise a question.<<
    Undoubtedly I should have chosen my words more carefully. However, 100% worthy of belief does not necessarily force a literalistic interpretation.
    For example, someone I trust completely told me that it rained cats and dogs in their town yesterday. I believe their statement to be 100% worthy of belief and beyond reproach. I don't feel that I'm taking too many liberties by interpreting their use of the canine and feline reference to be providing merely an emphasis consistent with contemporary verbal culture.

  11. John Nolan says:

    I would take issue with a couple of points raised by previous commentators. Firstly, Galerimo’s opening sentence: ‘Setting aside the great achievement of putting the Scriptures into the hands of the plain folk of Germany and the prophetic call to the Catholic Church for renewal, which was finally heard, with Vatican II …’

    To start with, the first German edition of the Bible appeared in 1466, and by the time that Luther’s NT came out in 1522 there had been no fewer than sixteen editions of the Bible in German. There was an Italian Bible in 1471, a Spanish one in 1478 and a French one in 1487. The idea that the Church prohibited translation of the Vulgate on principle is a Protestant myth, albeit an enduring one. Also in the 16th century most people who were literate were also literate in Latin, and the ‘plain folk’ were mostly illiterate anyway.

    Secondly, while it is true that Luther’s revolt gave added impetus to the Catholic reform movement, it had already started, and the renewal of the Church on many levels was triumphantly accomplished by the end of the sixteenth century. By all means cite the Council of Trent, but to bring Vatican II into it is just daft, especially since that Council was followed not by a renewal, but a precipitous decline in the European heartland of Catholicism.

    Equally dotty is Nektarios’s caricature of an ‘ailing Church’ which paradoxically managed to ‘rule over every aspect of people’s lives’. All the evidence shows that the late medieval Church in England was vibrant and popular; its prayers, rituals, customs and feasts maintained a strong hold on the imagination of all classes and formed a bridge between literate and illiterate, indeed between the living and the dead.

    The Reformation abruptly swept all this away, and the common people felt the deprivation acutely. Nowadays we are exhorted to ‘live the Gospel’ but if we do so, it is in a vacuum – we can have no concept of a shared spirituality, and even the minority who profess themselves Catholic do not share the same beliefs.

    Did the fracturing of western Christendom following Luther’s revolt provide any tangible benefits? It certainly caused a lot of death and destruction.

  12. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan
    Well John, what you describe as ‘all the evidence’ let me remind you led us into the dark ages.
    Are all the prayers, rituals, customs and feasts is that Christianity? If it is it is not much wonder people ignore the Church both within it and without. I have a certain sympathy for their position.

    Again John, your view of history does not bear out the facts. The people were already in poverty and deprivation under the domination of the Roman Catholic Church, the exact opposite that happened in part due to the renaissance, in part due to the printing press and in part to the Reformation when people left Catholicism and became Protestants.

    Concerning Martin Luther, you really ought to get your history and facts concerning him sorted out, as with other statements you make the facts concerning him does not bear out. He was no revolutionist.
    What he pinned up on the door of the Church at Wittenberg was written in Latin and was a document for discussion for those wishing the University and Church leaders.

    You ask the question; “Did the fracturing of western Christendom following Luther’s revolt provide any tangible benefits? It certainly caused a lot of death and destruction.
    Lets be quite clear, there was certainly a lot of death and destruction initiated by various Popes around that time. Persecution was rife at the hands of the Catholic Church.
    There were and are many benefits to the Reformation that are with us today. Science was freed up
    to investigate and discover, where before it was held down and back by the Vatican.
    Literature, the Arts, Music, Business and so on all flourished in freedom when the Reformation gained momentum.

    Lastly, You say; ‘Equally dotty is Nektarios’s caricature of an ‘ailing Church’ which paradoxically managed to ‘rule over every aspect of people’s lives’.’

    Let me ask you, John, is such political and ecclesiastic rule over every aspect of peoples lives which the Roman Catholic Church once exercised ruthlessly over peoples and kings and nations. is
    that Christianity? You won’t find it in the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching or Practice of the Early Church.
    It had become as it is today, an ailing institution, a corporate business, religious, but is it Christian?
    That’s the question you need to answer.

    • ignatius says:

      You will perhaps be aware that there are several documentary programmes on the reformation currently running on various TV channels. If you do a bit of catching up on BBC I player you will discover that Luther never nailed anything up anywhere. Most of what you write here amount to no more than vapid generalisations. For example the assertion: “Literature, the Arts, Music, Business and so on all flourished in freedom when the Reformation gained momentum.” is so broad as to be meaningless. Even a one minute delve into google will show a radically different view…try wikipedia on the subject
      for example:
      ” The Protestant Reformation during the 16th century in Europe almost entirely rejected the existing tradition of Catholic art, and very often destroyed as much of it as it could reach. A new artistic tradition developed, producing far smaller quantities of art that followed Protestant agendas and diverged drastically from the southern European tradition and the humanist art produced during the High Renaissance”.

  13. Nektarios says:

    Wishing, is an error and the word should be, ‘within.

  14. John Nolan says:

    Sorry, Nektarios, most of what you say is historically untenable, and it would require a minor dissertation to refute them point by point. I’ll merely take one example: ‘Science was freed up to investigate and discover where before it was held down and back by the Vatican’ . This hoary old chestnut has been debunked as a myth by a succession of historians over the last century. The evidence to refute it is overwhelming.

    Literature, the arts, music and commerce flourished in Catholic countries at least as much as in Protestant ones. This is easy enough to demonstrate.

    My advice to you would be to study some history before pontificating on it. No pun intended.

  15. Martha says:

    A useful book which I have come across recently is Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark, published last year. He has also written The Rise of Christianity 1997. Among other appointments he is Codirector of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

    He writes, “I am not a Roman Catholic, and I did not write this book in defense of the Church. I wrote it in defense of history.

    Chapter 10, Protestant Modernity is particularly relevant.

  16. John Nolan says:


    Indeed. The Protestants used the printing press to great effect. You need to go to the 20th century to find a similar campaign of ‘disinformation’, namely that practised by the Soviet Union. The latter was so well done that it has confused fact and fiction to this day, and historians are hard put to disentangle truth from falsehood in events which are a mere 75 years old.

    I am, as an historian, wearily resigned to the fact that certain myths will doggedly persist despite all the evidence. As we approach Armistice Day (and the centenary of 3rd Ypres) the First World War myths will no doubt be resurrected in the popular imagination, despite three generations of historians, beginning with John Terraine, doing their utmost to set the record straight.

    Nektarios has inherited a warped view of the Catholic Church from his evangelical Protestant background, and his transition into Eastern Orthoxy has not mitigated it. However, since this is Quentin’s blog, and is supposedly about science and faith, I would expect him to refute the
    idea that they are incompatible, or ever were.

    • Nektarios says:


      I understand where you are coming from with your statement; “Nektarios has inherited a warped view of the Catholic Church from his evangelical Protestant background, and his transition into Eastern Orthdoxy has not mitigated it.”
      But, unfortunately, you speaking as a historian, you are not unbiased in your view either of me, or indeed the Evangelical Churches which came a little later to fruition within the Protestant Churches from the time of the Reformation.

      I would say, my view of the Roman Catholic Church is not warped as you assume, but understood in the light of Church history and secular history.
      We are well aware why Luther nailed his thesis to the door of the Church. We know it was a document for discussion, not for the rank and file Catholic who could not speak Latin, but for those in the university he taught in and for Church leaders.

      But there was more taking place than just that, there was the movement of the Holy Spirit
      and it swept all over Europe and UK and latterly to America.

      Was it all good, no it was not. Persecution in Europe by the Pope over the Reformation is well documented historically and we know the issues at stake.

      It is tragic today to see the Protestant Churches and Roman Catholic Church in decline
      with ever smaller numbers, and not fully appreciating the faith.The same is true of the Orthodox Church also I am afraid to say.
      I pray for revival among all Christians.

  17. ignatius says:


    “I would slightly expand the modern usage of Evangelical (capital E) to say that, in my opinion, the only source of “knowledge which is 100% worthy of belief and beyond reproach” is scripture. One is perfectly free to believe the things that other christians believe, if indeed one believes them and has confidence in the source, and these things may well be true. In that case would you still be Evangelical?”

    I’m not sure that your first and second sentences make any sense. I assume you are asking a question something like this:
    “If I come to believe a lot of things about: the Catholic church/ Anglican church/ etc etc, can I still call myself an Evangelical”

    If that is indeed your gist then I would say ‘yes to a degree’. In terms of Evangelical belief within the Roman Catholic church then I think, if you are looking only at scripture the answer must be yes since most of the Catechism is scripturally derived. Having spent around twenty years in the Evangelical wing of the church before becoming Catholic, the question interests me enormously. For myself I have certainly become catholic but there is definitely a charismatic/evangelical streak within still in my thinking, preaching and teaching. I notice this especially in the way I might preach a particular set of scriptures compared with either my parish priest or the priest who oversees our prison chaplaincy and celebrates mass with us in there.
    The difference one tends to notice in the tasks of everyday preaching and teaching is mainly one of emphasis. For example my background tends to make me focus more on the individual than the church and I have to be aware of this and too keep it to a degree under check.

    In my own experience the Catholic church makes a much more’honest’ job of accepting that it is the Church that ‘makes’ the Church by promulgating the living tradition of Christ. Evangelical teaching tends rather towards denying its own existence by claiming its interpretations are not actually interpretations but are somehow derived direct from God, in scripture without doctrinal influence. This is plain nuts.

  18. G.D. says:

    “And it must follow that the whole teaching Church with its authorities and its theologians interpreting and developing doctrine must be ignored: the teachers themselves are corrupted by sin, and their proclaimed truths and rules are of no value. The only source of truth which God has given us is Scripture: the phrase sola scriptura and sola fides are born”

    And is continually interpreted, and so, the intrinsic meaning revealed more & more?
    So not to be ignored, but accepted as stepping stones.

    A particular interpretation, ‘corrupt’ as it may be, if sincerely seeking Truth development(s), is leading towards a greater ‘understanding’ of the ‘whole’.

    Where we so easily ‘fall’ down is to assume (because we ‘understand’ literal Scripture from our own preferences) that is the only and complete meaning scripture can reveal.
    Surely throughout ‘history’ that has been proven wrong?
    (What is Lectio Divina for?).

    For instance, i believe Mary remained a virgin physically, before during and after, because it makes perfect sense (in too many ways to include here) because of the MEANING i see within it. First revealed  to me via church teaching (and it was a ‘revelation’ i had to fight hard to accept, initially solely by faith in the church teaching alone) but my ‘understanding’ of that meaning is not the same as when i first believed. The literal dogma is still the same; but the meaning has developed.
    And i know it really doesn’t matter if it’s LITERAL presentation is accepted, by another or not (or me for that matter!) for the MEANING to be ‘realised’. If the ‘dogmatic’ follows then all well and good, but a secondary consideration.

    Is not LITERAL New Testament Scripture, when WRITTEN by teachers themselves corrupted by sin, itself an interpretation of the intrinsic Truth(s) the Christ came and revealed; without doing away with ‘one jot’ of what went before in the Old Testament Scriptures?
    (To paraphrase a mentor of mine ‘if it’s true now it always was true’. And will be always. No matter how it’s presented/interpreted).

    In the end, it’s not ‘how’ we literally understand that will count. It’s the acceptance of revealed true ‘meaning’ within the partial ‘corruptions’ a.n. individual (all of us!) prefers; and often presents as complete; and a literally in-corrupt Truth that can’t be ‘developed’. ( That’s where we fall – to become like Gods?).
    Maybe that’s why there is so much (seeming) contradiction within the New Testament writings? To hamper us!

    (i realise the above is not an intellectually ‘logical’ way of approaching the topic … but … that too is corrupt!?).

  19. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    I answered Martha and I was addressing her points. Anyway why should I answer you as your comments tend towards spoiling for a fight. Your comments to me also tend to be rude and you don’t accept historical facts when presented to you.

  20. Geordie says:

    Nektarios, you need to look at the post you were answering. It was from John Nolan and he was addressing Martha. I hope you don’t mis-interpret Scripture in the same way.

  21. Nektarios says:

    I was not aware that if one replied to another by name on the blog, one could not also contribute.
    Couple to the fact Martha mentioned me by name that I felt needed addressing.
    As a semi-retired Pastor, I am not in the way of mis-interpreting Holy Scriptures.

  22. John Nolan says:

    No, Nektarios, it was I who mentioned you by name. And I am well qualified to call you out on what you consider to be ‘historical facts’ but which turn out to be nothing of the sort. An A-level history student could put you right. Quite why you feel the need to pop up on a Catholic blog to spout discredited Protestant propaganda is a mystery to me.

    I am biased to the extent that I accept only those parts of Luther’s theology which can be squared with Catholic tradition.

    However, I defy you to cite one ‘historical fact’ which I do not accept. Tendentious opinions which are not based on evidence, and which all the available evidence show to be false, do not qualify as such.

    Perhaps you should read Martha’s recommended book.

  23. Nektarios says:

    This is pointless. The topic was about the Reformation. I can well understand the Roman Catholic position, but to deny those in the Protestant Church their view which is historically valid.
    I don’t want to continue with this contentious issue and read you most unchristian personal remarks.

  24. John Nolan says:


    Of course you don’t want to continue. You’re on a hiding to nothing. Take your ball and go home.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan

      Historian you are, then it is quite clear to me that you don’t learn the lessons of history.
      You comment above is just so childish.
      Your biased views about Mathin Luther is way off the mark historically and should not be held by anyone who loves the truth.
      No need to reply to this John, the Lord Himself will deal with you.

      • John Nolan says:

        Nektarios, you wouldn’t recognize the truth if it came up and bit you on your sanctimonious arse. Your last sentence is breathtaking in its pomposity and presumption. You need to seek help, from a psychiatrist rather than an historian.

      • Nektarios says:

        John Nolan

        I am surprised that Quentin has not stepped in to stop this verbal abuse of me.
        OK I am not Roman Catholic personally, but my family going back generations were from Ireland.
        It is sad to me, that your aggression comes out at every point regarding myself.
        This is not the purpose of the SS blog, nor is it exclusively Roman Catholic as many of the topics covered over the years show.
        Debate with me if you will, but it is not edifying to descend to hurling abuse because I may disagree with you. If you disagree, you have to say why you disagree.
        I then surely have the right to reply.

        When I said, the Lord Himself will deal with you, at Judgement He will deal with us all.
        Why take such exception to it. I was simply stating a fact that will happen eventually, and putting the suggestion to you that we need to be careful with our words and actions – that was all.

      • Quentin says:

        Perhaps I should just mention here that I am loth to censor contributions on the Blog. Clearly we have a number of intelligent readers who are able to form their own opinions of contributors and the way they express their opinions. So I censor only in flagrant cases.
        My wish for the Blog is that we avoid personal remarks and confine ourselves to rational argument. That way we have the best chance of getting closer to the truth. I also bear in mind that we have readers, some casual, who recognise that this is a religious site. I would hope that they would say “Look at these Christians, see how they love one another ” rather than note our willingness to attack.

  25. G.D. says:

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear …

    • John Nolan says:

      G.D., you sound like a Victorian dowager with the vapours! I have to say, that although your style is more discursive that mine (!) your insights are valuable, you do not play fast and loose with history, and you do not castigate as unChristian those who disagree with you.

      The violent language used by Luther against the German peasants and the Jews was decidedly unChristian and has done much to tarnish his reputation as a man, even for those who accept his theology in toto.

      • G.D. says:

        It’s OK john, the vapours i may have, but smelling salts too.
        I need them to overcome the vitriol of late. LOL!

    • Martha says:

      And here am I tidying up in my kitchen and listening to some sublime Orthodox chanting . . . .

  26. ignatius says:

    Yes, sorry about that. I tried to just post the link to the site Nektarios was referring to, but the picture came up and I didn’t know how to get rid of it.

  27. Nektarios says:


    This unfortunately was not the Youtube item I was pointing to. This is of course wrong, but it was the much younger Santos speaking about the Historical aspects of the Roman Catholic Church and their power.
    I too stated I did not agree with him on many things.

  28. G.D. says:

    As i understand Luther from Quentin’s summery (not read Luther myself) he was a bit confusing.
    He can’t have it both ways – we ‘choose Christs morality’ but have ‘no free will’?

    Yes, it’s Christ that enables man(kind?)’s redemption in Jesus, but we need to choose to accept it.
    Redemption is the/a ‘journey’ into accepting ever more fully (eternally?) the supreme grace of Christ, rather than our own ‘fallen nature’. That necessitates replacing our ‘corrupted’ free will with the ‘will of God’. ……Itself a continual choice of free will.

    Jesus, perfect man, lived the example for us, remaining united perfectly to God – The Christ. Son of God. God.
    We created beings can merely choose to ‘imitate’ that union – through The Christ yes, but only by choice/willing – eternally.

    And so the two ‘wills’ BECOME hypo-statically(?) united through in & with Christ, as Christ is, prior to the ‘fall’ away from that union. (In imitation of Jesus Christ’s ETERNAL union with God).
    A choice or willing for Christ/God entails embracing to some extent the unchanging initial ‘union’ with God (Holy Spirit?) as God created (creates?) it through Christ.

    Luther seems to assume because our choices are ‘corrupt’ they are null and void. We have no chance of choosing a perfect God.
    But, it seems to me, it’s Christ Jesus that enables and reveals that choice.
    Unchangeable and perfect as Christ is – and all things created through him with him and in him –
    no matter how imperfect or ‘corrupt’ our ‘willing’ may have become be it won’t hamper bringing us closer (re-uniting) to God.

    If we so choose! As i understand God would have it; and who can argue with God? And Eternity is ‘a long time’ so we have plenty of chances to ‘perfect’ it – thanks be to God – forever.

    (To my way of seeing/understanding, it’s a matter of perception/perceiving what really is, already, my Life. But that’s another issue).

  29. ignatius says:

    Hi G.D
    Yes, I like this attempt to describe what we deeply know but cannot clearly perceive. Never thought about our union with Christ being part of the hypostasis before…hmmmmm…. 🙂

    • G.D. says:

      Not the same as Jesus (hypostasis) of course, ignatius. Not that much of a heretic (lol). But in some sense i think we must share something of it. When we choose, allow, God’s ‘willing’ above our own, when we ‘loose ourselves in Spirit’ so to speak.

      Can never get away from the idea that God desires union more than we ever could … and .. well, God is God .. and what God wants will be, is even .. despite our ‘corruptions’.
      … ‘be it done unto me according to your Word’ …

  30. ignatius says:

    G.D One other thought. I think I agree with you about the nature of our ‘willing’. As long as the will is towards desiring God, no matter how dimly understood, then it is enough to effect the continuum of change. I believe this more strongly now after several years of prison chaplaincy.

  31. John Nolan says:


    My ‘argumentum ad hominem’ as applied to you is in the classical Lockean sense of ‘to press a man with consequences drawn from his own principles and concessions’. The fact that you chose to take it as a personal affront prompted me to compare you to a petulant schoolboy who takes his ball and goes home. To pursue the analogy, your ball is so badly punctured as to be of little use anyway.

    I am actually being kind in that I attribute your reiteration of patent falsehoods to ignorance rather than malice. Nor does a warped view of the Catholic Church render a man ipso facto unChristian. For all I know you are an exemplary Christian in all other respects.

    You failed to come up with one example of a ‘historical fact’ which I do not accept. So much for your interest in debate.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan,
      Still at it, John.
      But to the topic in hand.
      It was not Martin Luther that started the Reformation. He was the man that would spearhead it later.
      It was the abuses, as he saw it of papal indulgences.
      The propaganda spewed out by the Roman Catholic Church, which many have inbibed and keep reiterating as though it was an honest truthful account. No, it was and is just propaganda.

      Has it never struck the Catholic Church that they within are being duped by it in so many ways. For example, What is a Church? What the Apostles demonstrated and laid down in Acts and the Teaching and the Practice as it emerges through all the Epistles including Revelation.
      I was told of a conversation between a high ranking Roman Catholic Clergyman who was was asked, ‘ Can you see the Roman Catholic view of the Church as in the New Testament, as laid down by the Apostles filled with the Holy Ghost
      description of a Church in the Roman Catholic Church today?’
      He thought long and hard about it, and replied, No, I don’t think I can.’

      Men are involved in a Reformation, but the movement of it is of the Holy Spirit. In every case of Reformation or Revival that has ever been, and there has been many, in the long
      history of the Church, it has meant not drastic changes, not something new, something never heard of before, heretical teaching and the like, but a return to the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.

      A challenge to the Catholic readership of the SS blog and others, to prayerfully read the history of the Church’s beginnings in Acts 2. Notice the order of things and it cannot be juggled around to suit, for the order of it is of God.

      • ignatius says:

        Wow..what a challenge,….hmmm..never seen a bible in my entire life, honest guv……..and wot’s all this about praying…wot is that yer honour? surely you mean paying cos thats wot we do ere in Kaffolik churches…just believe any old nonsense..tug our forelocks and scrape our knuckles on the ground… innit….

      • Nektarios says:


        That is what religious institutions do, but, don’t call it Christian or Apostolic Christianity it aint.
        It is a challenge,Ignatius, and one that is gaining momentum around the world again. Regaining what we Early Christian Church had – God in the midst, and the Holy Spirit
        communications to them, Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.
        What joy was theirs and it was not synthetic, hyped up but the real thing.
        May the same joy be yours

  32. John Nolan says:

    Nektarios, you’re now attempting, on a Catholic blog, to proselytize for an extreme form of Protestantism. You are of course entitled to believe what you like. You are entitled to value the opinions of a mountebank like Santos ‘Mr Astrotheology’ Bonacci over the measured conclusions of reputable historians. You are entitled to credit the Holy Ghost for the Protestant Reformation, (though not for the Catholic Reformation which occurred in the same century). Who was the ‘high-ranking Roman Catholic clergyman’ to whom you allude, and who was his interlocutor? You don’t say, so a reasonable person would not be inclined to give credence to the story.

    The more you descend into fanaticism, the less likely you are to make converts. Thank God we are moving to a different thread today. This doesn’t mean we will be spared your ‘sublime mysticism and nonsense’ but it might provide less scope for your anti-Catholic ranting, which in the 21st century exists in the secular sphere, but is thankfully far less common in mainstream Protestantism.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan

      I do not know who the high ranking clergyman was it was over 50 years ago. The one that relayed the story, you can take it as a true story.

      I am not prosetyzing as you call it, just informing of documented historical facts that took place in history 500 years ago.

      As for the rest of your last contribution, not worth discussing as it is simple just not true on any point you raised.

      • John Nolan says:


        Prove that anything I have said is not true IN POINT OF FACT. I can supply the evidence. Faith, belief, is another matter and is not bound by the same rules. Oh, and why should I take as ‘a true story’ a non-attributed anecdote of fifty years ago? I would be a fool to do so, and despite my manifest failings, I am no fool.

  33. G.D. says:

    I happen to agree with you, Nektarios, that the Church (all of it, including the early church, read St. Paul and you will see he agrees, and all ‘denominations’ since) has, as an institution en mass, strayed in many ways from the purity of the teachings Jesus originally gave.
    I also believe that God knew that would happen. And that the Spirit was given to keep all of that in check. If we but listen to the Word and the ‘spirit’ that Spirit brings it in.

    We are all ‘corrupt’ in many different ways; & we are all sincerely seeking to get it ‘perfect’. We all fail time and time again. Thanks be to God for Mercy.

    At times the ‘prophetic voice’ (shared amongst us) is given to point out that ‘collective corruption’ & the individual failings; but not for the purpose of castigating each other, or the causing of divisions, it’s for the building up of the Body in unity.
    Presented in compassion and love that ‘Word’ has much more ability to reveal God’s Spirit and bring all closer to realising ‘truth’.

    It (prophetic voice) will meet opposition and disagreement, but still must hold onto & act from the initial impetus of Love that the Word inspires it with.
    Humility is the corner stone of the prophetic message; yes, it’s truth must ring out, but it doesn’t use that truth to beat others into submission, or need to defend against slings & arrows directed at it.

    No one (or collective institution) is ‘perfect’ but the love within each one (individual and institution) that sincerity seeks God, is of God, and is humble.
    By their love you shall know them; not by their compatibility.
    Disagree we must, as we see fit, but done in love for the sake of Love, or the voice of God is silenced.

    Jesus himself said ‘Why do you call me good? Only God is good’. And he was perfect!!

    (None of the above is directed at anyone PERSONALLY. Just thoughts on the general dialogues so far which i see, behind the vitriol (lol), as containing a lot of ‘truths’ on all sides.
    And i’m not saying i can put the above into action; sinner that i am, i take personal offence & ‘rant’ my defence with the best of them at times. Mea Culpa!).

    • Nektarios says:

      The power to do anything spiritually comes from the life Christ has given us. If we think, and we often do, I can do that, then we fail. We do not really know ourselves as we ought.
      As Christians one is a New Creation, a Child of God with all that that means.
      The holy Spirit is not a convenience to rubber stamp our thoughts and actions. His actions in us is to bring us to God, that is why He was sent.
      He shall not speak of Himself, but testify of me, said Christ.
      God bless you.

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