Monday, April 19, 2010

The Historical Roots Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism

(This is an updated version of a 2008 post. Some of the links below will take you to different articles than the corresponding links in the 2008 post did. I've put the links in alphabetical order. Note that some of the threads linked below have relevant material in their comments section, not just in the article that begins the thread.)

Apostolic Succession
Assumption Of Mary (Part 1)
Assumption Of Mary (Part 2)
Assumption Of Mary (Part 3)
Assumption Of Mary (Part 4)
Augustine And Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Augustine And Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Augustine And Roman Catholicism (Part 3)
Baptismal Regeneration
Biblical Inerrancy
Biographical Sketch Of Origen
Biographical Sketch Of Thomas Bilney
Biographical Sketch Of William Tyndale
Canon Of The New Testament (Part 1)
Canon Of The New Testament (Part 2)
Canon Of The Old Testament (Part 1)
Canon Of The Old Testament (Part 2)
Church Infallibility
Clement Of Alexandria And Roman Catholicism
Clement Of Rome And Roman Catholicism
Confession Of Sins (See The Third Post In The Comments Section Of The Thread)
Contradictions In Roman Catholic Belief And Practice
Development Of Doctrine (Part 1)
Development Of Doctrine (Part 2)
Development Of Doctrine (Part 3)
Development Of Doctrine (Part 4)
Diversity Of Beliefs In Roman Catholicism At The Time Of The Reformation
Ecclesiology (Part 1)
Ecclesiology (Part 2)
Ecumenism (See The Fourth Post In The Comments Section Of The Thread)
Eternal Security
Eucharist (Part 1)
Eucharist (Part 2)
Eucharist (Part 3)
Eucharist (Part 4)
Identifying Christians Before The Reformation
Ignatius And Roman Catholicism
Infant Baptism
Infant Salvation
Irenaeus And Roman Catholicism
Josephus And Roman Catholicism
Liberalism In Roman Catholicism
Lollard Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 1)
Lollard Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 2)
Marian Beliefs Of The Protestant Reformers
Mary And Christmas
Mary In Luke's Writings
Miracles In Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Miracles In Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Moses' Seat
New Eve
Oral Tradition
Other Marian Beliefs
Papias And Roman Catholicism
Patristic Exegesis
Perpetual Virginity Of Mary
Perpetual Virginity Of Mary And Children Of Joseph From A Former Marriage
Perspicuity Of Scripture
Prayers To Saints And Angels
Prooftexts For Roman Catholicism
Prooftexts For Roman Catholic Mariology
Protestantism In Early Church History
Sinlessness Of Mary (Part 1)
Sinlessness Of Mary (Part 2)
Sinlessness Of Mary (Part 3)
Solas Before The Reformation
Sola Scriptura (Part 1)
Sola Scriptura (Part 2)
Sola Scriptura (Part 3)
Sources Of The Patristic Era Other Than The Church Fathers
Studying The Church Fathers
Tertullian And Roman Catholicism
Veneration Of Images
Waldensian Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 1)
Waldensian Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 2)
Waldensian Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 3)
Woman Of Revelation 12

"In fact, recent research on the Reformation entitles us to sharpen it and to say that the Reformation began because the reformers were too catholic in the midst of a church that had forgotten its catholicity. That generalization applies particularly to Luther and to some of the Anglican reformers, somewhat less to Calvin, still less to Zwingli, least of all to the Anabaptists. But even Zwingli, who occupies the left wing among the classical reformers, retained a surprising amount of catholic substance in his thought, while the breadth and depth of Calvin’s debt to the heritage of the catholic centuries is only now beginning to emerge….There was more to quote [from the church fathers] than their [the reformers'] Roman opponents found comfortable. Every major tenet of the Reformation had considerable support in the catholic tradition. That was eminently true of the central Reformation teaching of justification by faith alone….That the ground of our salvation is the unearned favor of God in Christ, and that all we need do to obtain it is to trust that favor – this was the confession of great catholic saints and teachers….Rome’s reactions [to the Protestant reformers] were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone – a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers – Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition….Interpreters of the New Testament have suggested a host of meanings for the passage [Matthew 16]. As Roman Catholic scholars now concede, the ancient Christian father Cyprian used it to prove the authority of the bishop – not merely of the Roman bishop, but of every bishop….So traumatic was the effect of the dogma of papal infallibility that the pope did not avail himself of this privilege for eighty years. But when he finally did, by proclaiming the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 1, 1950, he confirmed the suspicions and misgivings of the dogma’s critics. Not only is Scriptural proof obviously lacking for this notion, but the tradition of the early Christian centuries is also silent about it….In asserting their catholicity, the reformers drew upon the church fathers as proof that it was possible to be catholic without being Roman. Study of the fathers thus became an important part of the Protestant panoply as well. In fact, the very word 'patrology' as a title for a manual on the church fathers and their works is a Protestant invention, first used by Johann Gerhard (d. 1637). When Protestant liberalism developed during the nineteenth century, one of its principal contributions to theological literature was its work on the fathers. The Patrology of the Roman Catholic scholar Johannes Quasten and an essay by the Jesuit scholar J. de Ghellinck both reveal the dependence even of Roman theologians upon the scholarly achievements of Protestant historians, the outstanding of whom was Adolf Harnack (d. 1930). Although the generation of theologians after Harnack has not been as interested in the field of patristic study, Protestants have not completely forgotten the heritage of the fathers. Meanwhile, Roman Catholics have begun to put an assessment upon the fathers that differs significantly from the traditional one. Instead of measuring the fathers against the standards of a later orthodoxy, Roman Catholic historians now interpret them in the context of their own time. This means, for example, that a church father like Origen is no longer interpreted on the basis of his later (and politically motivated) condemnation for heresy, but on the basis of his own writings and career….The study of the church fathers is now a predominantly Roman Catholic building, even though many of the foundations for it were laid by Protestant hands….the heritage of the fathers does not belong exclusively to either side. Roman Catholics must acknowledge the presence of evangelical or 'Protestant' ideas in Irenaeus, and Protestants must come to terms with the catholic elements in the same father." (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle Of Roman Catholicism [Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1959], pp. 46-49, 51-52, 78, 83, 195-196)


  1. "The Patrology of the Roman Catholic scholar Johannes Quasten and an essay by the Jesuit scholar J. de Ghellinck both reveal the dependence even of Roman theologians upon the scholarly achievements of Protestant historians, the outstanding of whom was Adolf Harnack (d. 1930)."

    I might add that ever since Peter the Great began his militant Westernization-project, Eastern Orthodox theology has also been more indebted to Protestant theology (of both orthodox and liberal varieties) than what many EOs today would like to admit.

    Check out this online book by George Florovsky for more info on the subject:

    Florovsky attracted hostility for pointing out how greatly modern-era Russian Orthodox theology had silently borrowed from both RC scholasticism and Protestant scholarship:

    "From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the Russian Church found itself intellectually unprepared to deal with the religious and cultural storms bursting in upon it. First came the era of open hostilities between Protestants and Catholics; later came the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Consequently, Orthodoxy absorbed, sometimes unconsciously, western scholasticism, deism, pietism, and idealism, and produced what Fr. Florovsky describes as the "pseudomorphosis" of Russia's authentic religious life derived from Byzantium. Only in the nineteenth century did Russian Orthodoxy seriously undertake to recover its Byzantine heritage and find its way "back to the Fathers ", thereby laying the foundation for Florovsky's later program of "neo-patristic synthesis," a concept he elaborates in his own preface to this book and throughout the study.

    Although no one has gone so far as to say about Florovsky what the historian S. M. Solov'ev once said about Filaret ("Every day for lunch he ate two priests and two minnows"), his caustic remarks about prominent figures in Russian history prepared the atmosphere for the cool and critical manner in which the book was received. Ways of Russian Theology was not well reviewed. His colleagues at the St. Sergius Institute in Paris collaborated against him in order to shield the students from his influence. Nicholas Berdiaev wrote a long review in The Way (Put J, the leading Orthodox intellectual journal in the Russian emigration, accusing him of arrogance and speaking as though he were God thundering down mal judgment on those with whom he disagreed. Many at the Institute saw the book as a full scale attack on Russia and its faith. 1 They resented the acerbic remarks about those who he be believed to have surrendered to the West: "Feofan Prokopovich was a dreadful person . . . (He) stands forth not as a westerner, but as a western man, a foreigner . . . (He) viewed the Orthodox world as an outsider and imagined it to be a duplicate of Rome. He simply did not experience Orthodoxy, absorbed as he was in western disputes. In those debates he remained to the end allied with the Protestants." Similarly, Peter Mogila, the great seventeenth century churchman, is described as a "crypto-Roman." "He brought Orthodoxy to what might be called a Latin "pseudomorphosis'." And, in a manner which would inevitably provoke his Parisian associates, Florovsky wrote that ." . .N. A. Berdiaev drank so deeply at the springs of German mysticism and philosophy that he could not break loose from the fatal German circle.. . German mysticism cut him off from the life of the Great Church.""

  2. Wow.

    Thank you, Jason, for all your labor in compiling and listing all the relevant material into this one master post. It is so helpful.

    Much, much thanks!

  3. Jason,
    This is excellent! I would encourage you to consider putting this in book form - along with your "catholic, but not Roman Catholic" series as a handy apologetic against the modern "Hahn/Armstrong/Beckwith/Surprised by Truth/Matatics/Sungenis" type apologetics of these former Evangelicals becoming R. Catholic.

    I look forward to reading it all more closely.

    Thanks brother Jason, your work is excellent!

  4. Jason, would you allow me to make this into an eBook and post it on ePub, .mobi and .pdf formats

    1. John,

      Yes, you can put it on Monergism however you see fit.

      I'm sorry for the lateness of this reply. For some reason, I didn't see your post until today. At least I don't recall having seen it or having responded to it earlier. I looked for an email address for contacting you, but didn't find one.