The Papal Visit & Truth

September 21, 2015 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

The vast majority of Roman Catholics have no idea what the Council of Trent sets forth. The Council of Trent was a formal structured attempt to deny and destroy every element of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther. If you are a Protestant you must be aware of these issues. The Council of Trent declared and still maintains that anyone who embraces the postulates of the Reformation is Anathema, cursed. If you do not subscribe to Rome’s interpretation of Truth, Special Revelation, you are condemned. The following are just a few of these issues.


The first decision dealt with the matter of authority. The Council decreed that both Scripture and tradition were to be of equal authority. This was a denial of the position known as sola scriptura or the Bible alone possessing the supreme authority in the Church. In addition, the Latin Vulgate translation was declared the official Bible of the Church. As a result, a translation of the Scriptures was given more authority than the Scriptures in the source languages of Hebrew and Greek. In addition, the canon of Scripture was enlarged because the Vulgate contained additional books, called the Apocrypha, that the Protestants rejected as canonical Scripture.

The Council of Trent also reiterated the Church’s sole authority to interpret the Scriptures. This reinforced the position of the Magisterum or the teaching office of the Church. The exclusive right of the Church to interpret Scripture was one of the positions that Luther had attacked in his tract An Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. Luther taught that the doctrine of the priesthood of believer meant that the individual Christian possessed the ability to interpret the Scriptures accurately. Although the Church did not officially condemn vernacular translations of the Bible, this canon effectively accomplished the same result.

Trent upheld the validity of the seven sacraments. Again, this was the subject of another tract by Luther: The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Luther demonstrated that only Baptism and the Eucharist were valid sacraments because the Lord Himself had ordained them. Now the Church officially denied what Luther had written nearly twenty-five years before. According to Trent, the Church was to be a sacramental church. The grace of God was to be distributed to its faithful members via the sacraments. This was a denial of the ministry of the Holy Spirit Who distributed grace in His own power. In addition, the doctors of Trent forbade “communion in both kinds,” meaning that they only allowed the laity to partake of the bread, but not the cup. Luther had previously protested against the practice of withholding the cup from the laity, citing the words of the Lord Jesus in which he declared that believers were to partake of both the bread and the cup.

However, the severest condemnation of Protestant doctrine was reserved for the doctrine of justification by faith. If the doctrine of sola scriptura had been rejected by assigning authority to both the Scriptures and tradition, the doctrine of sola fide or by faith alone was decisively spurned by the canons of Trent respecting justification. The nature of justification was broadened to include moral renovation as well as the forgiveness of sins. The Reformers taught that justification was God’s act of declaring the sinner righteous upon the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Justification was, therefore, a change of one’s legal status before God. They used the phrase alien righteousness to stress that the righteousness that justifies an individual originated totally outside of the person. In contrast, Rome declared that justification, while including the forgiveness of sins, also included a change of moral nature. As a result, justification was defined as a process whereby a baptized individual co-operated with the infused righteousness of Christ more and more until they became morally renovated. The Church made justification dependent upon the sacrament of baptism and the person’s co-operation with infused grace and not on faith alone.

The Reformers also taught the doctrine of solus Christus whereby it was Christ’s righteousness alone that was imputed to the believer. The position adopted at the Council of Trent impugned the sole sufficiency of Christ to save a person from their sin and made salvation to be a cooperative effort of Christ and the person.

Attached to its dogmatic teachings concerning the doctrine of justification were a number of anathemas or damnations on those who held opposing positions. Without question, the Council’s pronouncements on this vital doctrine (and whether it was an imputed or an infused righteousness that justifies the person) remain the major impediments to any reunion between the Protestants and Roman Catholics. While both parties would agree that righteousness is required for justification, the questions regarding its nature (Christ’s righteousness alone or a combination of Christ’s righteousness and the individidual’s) and how one receives it (by faith alone or by the sacrament of baptism) have never been agreed upon by the two sides.

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