Tag Archives: Protestantism

HOW THE REFORMATION NEGLECTED THE HOLY SPIRIT

The following are excerpts from a chapter on pneumatology from Timothy C. Tennent’s excellent book, Theology in the Context of World Christianity:

“The Reformation’s emphasis on the authority of Scripture, ecclesiology, and Christology are clearly reflected in the post-Reformation attempt to systematize the theological deposit of the Reformers. However, this meant that, as was the case during the patristic period, a full development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was delayed and several vital aspects of his person and work were neglected in post-Reformation Protestant theology in the West. Over time, several major theological traditions developed that either denied completely or extremely limited the active role of the Holy Spirit in performing miracles, divine healing, demonic deliverance, prophecy, tongue-speaking, and other elements that later became central features of the Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit. For example, this tendency is evident in many expressions of Reformed theology as well as in the later nineteenth-century emergence of dispensationalism …” (Tennent 2007, 171).

“Traditional Western theologies were written by scholars who received their education in respected universities that were deeply influenced by Enlightenment assumptions. The Enlightenment worldview creates a high wall separating the experiential world of the senses – governed by reason and subject to scientific inquiry – from the unseen world beyond the wall; such a world either does not exist (naturalism) or, if it does, we can know little about it (deism). The result has been essentially a two-tiered universe that separates the world of science from the world of religion.

Biblical evangelicalism has challenged this worldview by insisting that God has supernaturally broken through this wall in the incarnation and that knowledge of the unseen world has been provided by the certainty of divine revelation. Evangelicals argued that through prayer we can have sustained communication and fellowship with God. The problem with this approach is that the basic two-tiered universe of the Enlightenment worldview remains intact. It has merely been modified so that Christians punch a few holes in the wall to provide a framework whereby God can come into the empirical world through the incarnation and revelation and we, in turn, can have access to the unseen world through prayer. The basic separation is left unchallenged …” (Tennent, 178).

“The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring the “not yet” of the kingdom into the “already” of our fallen world. All the future realities of the kingdom are now fully available to all believers through the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Doctrines of cessationism or partial cessationism are, in the final analysis, detrimental concessions to an Enlightenment worldview that has unduly influenced the church with its naturalistic presuppositions…” (Tennent, 179).

A CATHOLIC CRITIQUE OF THE FIVE SOLAS

5_solas_tee_shirt-r5e198bae2c8c43d381bfa4cdc3c20dab_8nazx_512

The following is an excerpt from a flawed but thought-provoking Catholic critique of the so-called Five Solas of Protestantism:

“During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers invented five Latin solas (sola means only), that summarized their protestant belief system about getting “saved”.  They are :

Sola fide (“by faith alone”)

Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)

Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)

Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone”)

Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)

Let’s take a look at these and see if they are still viable today.  The first thing that is striking is that if they are all “alone”, then why do the other 4 even exist?  In other words, if we are saved by scripture alone, then why do we even talk about grace or faith?  Why do we need scripture when we are saved by grace alone?  And are any of these “alones”  in the Bible?  A quick search shows that only one of the solas, the words “faith alone” does appear in the bible, as follows:

James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Strange that the one sola that does appear in the bible contradicts the very sola itself.  Works (good works, not useless Jewish works of the law) are part of being justified.  The Catholic Church teaches that justification begins at Baptism, when the Holy Spirit comes to us, even while we are infants.  And “being saved” is a lifelong journey that doesn’t end until we die and are allowed into heaven.  A lot of Protestants talk about “when they were saved”, as if it’s in the past tense.  Catholics would agree that whenever you began taking your faith in Christ seriously was certainly a great time, but it was only a first step, not the entire journey. What really counts is your faith at the time of death, not your faith when you first started believing 20 years ago.”

You can read the entire article here: catholicbible101.com/thefivesolas.htm

I say this critique is flawed because, for example, the Reformers did not claim that we are saved by “scripture alone,” but rather that scripture is the only infallible and authoritative text which guides our religious life. This article does not accurately depict the opposition’s position. Ultimately though, many lay Protestants / Evangelicals accept religious language such as the Five Solas without necessarily thinking the issues through on their own.