Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Bible Matters, or Why I'd be a "Lutheran" in the 16th Century

Generally speaking, I have become more theologically Orthodox. I agree with the East over the West in terms of the Filioque and the doctrine of God. St. Maximus has helped me, conceptually, cut through a lot of red tape between issues of freedom and determinism, Human responsibility and Divine predestinating. I think veneration of Mary as Theotokos are biblical, and I would agree, with qualification, about a separate office of 'episkopos' apart from 'presbyter'. However, this is only because of what the Reformation unleashed in the West, of which I am a product and heir.

Fundamentally, the biggest explosive fact of the Reformation is that it raised the question of biblicism and canon. Martin Luther accidentally unleashed a firestorm by standing on the Bible, and Church tradition, against the Pope. He, and his disciples, at first, radicalized to the point of insisting the sufficiency of the Word of God. There are many things, good and bad, sociological, political, economic etc., that the Reformation unleashed or was a product of. But the most important, for my concerns, is that is placed the Bible in a new place of power in theological disputation.

While it is true that many of the Reformers depended upon the metaphysical break Nominalism offered, the significant difference between the late Middle Ages and the Reformation was the argument revolved around the use of the Bible. There was something truly radical in Tyndale's assertion that he'd make the local ploughboy as theologically literate as the most powerful prelate, all on account of the Bible being made known in English. Tyndale's mission involved delivering the Scripture to all the people.

Many anti-Protestant polemics by former Protestants essentially reject their heritage and are, for that reason, mostly intellectually suicidal. It is the basest form of servility to betray how one even got to the point of denunciation. One sees among many, from the Neo-Tractarian of Anglicanism to Rome to Constantinople, sneer at Biblicism. It's almost as if the Bible was dirty. One sees how they basically Liberalize, in method if not conclusion, in applying Biblical criticism to the "literal" reading of Scripture. It's like they enjoy attacking the Holy Word of God. Of course, for their purposes, it is many times to support what they think is God's work in the World, namely the sustenance of His holy Church.

The Reformers were willing to actually open the Bible and read it. It was many times they who were willing to not only bring the Scripture into the vernacular, but into the readable vernacular, so even peasants may understand God's holy writ and seek to follow and worship Him. They, more than others, led campaigns of literacy to broad access to the Scripture.

This is not to say theological errors were not possible, or not prevalent. However, given the circumstances, only anti-Christ would argue that the Reformation was an unmitigated disaster. May such reptiles crawl back into their swamps and pray God give them understanding.

Edit 4/29/17: I changed the title from "Calvinist" to "Lutheran", and made some minor edits, because 1) I've reconsidered the Marburg Colloquy split and do not think Luther and his party were too wed to Medieval theology, as contrasted to the more biblical Zwinglian/Calvinist Reformed; instead, it was more complicated. 2) The name given to the Reformers was not "Calvinists" but "Lutherans", as a pejorative of party and faction, through most of the 16th century. Thus Tyndale was known as a "Lutheran" for spreading his vernacular Bible.

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