Thursday, November 20, 2014

Windsor on Swan on Brumley on Bouyer

James Swan, in a recent article, presents a critique of a posting in the Catholic Answers Forum on Martin Luther or more specifically Louis Bouyer's book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism.  In my humble opinion while I do appreciate that Swan appears to be attempting to find at least some "good" in the Catholic position, he is relying upon (what appears to me to be) modernistic and even revisionist theology, and totally dismissive of what he calls "pre-conciliar works on Protestantism," naming Grisar, Denifle and O'Hare in particular.  Ironically the book in question here was written ten years prior to Vatican II!  If Vatican II is the dividing point between pre- and post-conciliar, then Bouyer's book is pre-conciliar!

While I accept that at times the polemics of the other pre-conciliar authors named above, especially O'Hare, can be quite confrontational, but are or were they really "wrong?"  Why, after 490 some years of Protestantism do we NOW think Luther's ideas weren't so bad?  How can we think his several "solas" could somehow be acceptable and even aid in healing the rift between Catholicism and Protestantism?  I like the summary Bouyer uses:  "The break between Catholics and Protestants was either a tragic necessity (to use Jaroslav Pelikan's expression) or it was tragic because unnecessary."  I'm still on the side of the former - it was unnecessary and I would add, it opposes the Will of God.

If God desires that we be one, (John 17:21-23), as Scripture clearly states He does, then breaking away from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is wholly contrary to His Will.  True "reform" does not happen from without, it happens from within.  That which Luther, Calvin, et al, did divided God's People and thus spits in the face of God and His Will to claim such separation is good and/or holy.  Yes, that is polemical, but it is true - and undeniable to anyone who believes the Scriptures are true and truly God's Word.  If Luther and Co. were truly interested in "reform" then they would have stayed within the Catholic Church and worked toward that reform within God's Will, and not without it.

Swan closes his commentary with the following challenge:

If the infallible Word of God is found elsewhere beyond the Scriptures (say, in Tradition or the Magisterium), scriptura is not sola.
My response to this is, as it always has been, that when Scripture itself points to other infallible sources - then those issuing such a challenge as Swan has made must reject the notion of sola scriptura. Where does Scripture itself point to these other sources? In Matthew 16:18-19 (infallible authority given to one man, who would later become the corypheaus (head) of the Apostolic choir) and in Matthew 18:18 (infallible authority given to a group of men, specifically the Apostolic choir, our first bishops in the Catholic Church). If error cannot be bound or loosed in Heaven, then the authority given above is necessarily infallible authority. So according to Swan, scriptura is not sola.

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