Reformed and Catholic

by caseybedell

Philip Schaff, writes, “The Reformation is… the greatest act of the Catholic Church.” Thus the Reformation was not a break with church tradition, but with the church’s abuse of tradition.  The Reformers, properly understood, should be seen as having a deep catholic sensibility, who though respectful of the tradition that preceded them, were also willing to subject the tradition to the Scriptures. So in keeping with the spirit of catholicity, the Reformation gave birth to confessions (codified tradition).  These Reformed confessions were unique because they both challenged the tradition of the church while also seeking to maintain continuity with it.  The Reformed confessions have been rightly understood as well thought-out corporate church documents, which testify to their underlying moderating tone (i.e., people came together to agree on them). These confessions were designed to function ministerially (i.e., servant), not magisterially (i.e., master).

Important to remember, is that up till the time of the Reformation, most people perceived the bible to be a fundamentally obscure book.  Because it was not in their language and they were not encouraged to read it, the laity were absolutely dependent on the authoritative interpretation of the church.  The Reformation turned the tide and began to translate and educate the laity so that they might be dependent on God’s word alone.  Thus the Reformation was an echo of Jesus’ response to Satan in the wilderness, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

So why this reflection? Mainly because my own personal journey has led me to believe that being connected and concerned for the church catholic is what Jesus prayed for in John 17. So to be a Reformed Catholic is simply to be Christian in full integrity, confidently laying claim to what is true and good in the whole length and breadth of Christian history.

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