This blog could get very complicated. I will try to keep it simple. It is in response to Pastor Weedon’s blog on the subject of “The Catholic Principle and Lutheranism”. I will address the essay by Heath Curtis in a separate blog.
1) Thanks for the reference to Pius XII Mediator Dei and lex orandi, lex credendi (cf. paras 46-52). It is common knowlege that the princple can be reversed, but I did not know that the reversal had this level of magisterial approval. Certainly the original was that the rule of prayer established the rule of belief. Orthodox Christians have been very faithful to this. However, the Orthodox are missing the essential element of a living magisterium to establish, uphold and clarify the tenants of their faith and so are unable in practice to reverse the principle even if they would agree with it in theory. Lutherans, of course, subject the rule of prayer to the interogation of Scripture (and the Confessions). It is significant that in his encyclical Pius XII does not envisage Scripture as vetoing elements of liturgical or devotional practice, but “the ecclesiastical hierarchy”. It is this “hierarchy” which has
organised and regulated divine worship, enriching it constantly with new splendour and beauty, to the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of Christians. What is more, it has not been slow – keeping the substance of the Mass and sacraments carefully intact – to modify what it deemed not altogether fitting, and to add what appeared more likely to increase the honour paid to Jesus Christ and the august Trinity, and to instruct and stimulate the Christian people to greater advantage. (MD p.49)
Furthermore, he acknowledges that there has been a “progress and development of the sacred liturgy during the long and glorious life of the Church” which parallels the development of doctrine, including doctrines of the Word of God, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and Mary as the Virgin Mother of God (cf. pp. 51ff). In any case, one thing that Pius XII certainly does is maintain the connection between church practice and church dogma in mutual relationship, which Pastor Weedon’s scheme tends to separate.
2) Weedon says that
The scriptures provide a negative critique on Tradition: Whatever in Tradition is contrary to the witness of the Sacred Scriptures must be rejected, whatever is not is accepted.
This in fact gets it exactly the wrong way round from Catholic thinking. Catholics regard Sacred Tradition as the safeguard of the Apostolic Faith which was committed to writing in the Sacred Scriptures, rather than the Scriptures as the safeguard of Apostolic Faith which was passed on in Sacred Tradition.
3) Catholics, like Lutherans, are also adamant that
only God’s Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so.
Where we differ is in our understanding and definition of the Word of God. Lutherans equate the Word of God with Sacred Scripture in such a way that the only source of God’s Revelation is Sacred Scripture. Catholics understand Word of God to mean the fullness of God’s Revelation. What this includes is nicely set out in the Lineamenta for the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. In brief, the full revelation of the Word of God includes (cf. para. 9):
a – the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of the Father
b – the created world [which] “tells of the glory of God” (Ps 19:1
c – “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14): The Word of God par excellence, the ultimate and definitive Word, is Jesus Christ.
d – the words of man [which] are taken as the words of God, resounding in the proclamation of the prophets and the apostles
e – Sacred Scripture, under divine inspiration, [which] unites Jesus-the-Word to the words of the prophets and apostles…
f – But the Word of God is not locked away in writing. Even though Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, the Word-Revealed continues to be proclaimed and heard throughout Church history…through spirited preaching and many other forms in service to the Gospel.
The latter can be taken to include the authoritative teaching role of the Magisterium and by inference the Sacred Tradition of the Church.
4) Pastor Weedon sets up a false dichotomy between “divine mandates” as “the way of the law” and “gifts from the Holy Spirit through the Church for her use…in whatever way best serves the gospel.” If something has been given to the Church as a “gift of the Holy Spirit” for the sake of the Gospel, do we in fact have a choice as to whether or not we should use it?
5) Pastor Weedon states that “the present church has authority to regulate” the “ceremonies that have come down to her from antiquity”. Did this apply to the Church of the 16th Century? Because if it did, the Lutherans at the time directly opposed the Church’s authority to do so. Which raises the question: by Whose authority doest the church regulate matters of ceremony? Is there any other authority than the authority of Christ? and if not, then did the Lutherans of the 16th Century flout the authority of Christ by flouting the authority of the “present church”?