Calvin contra Rome on Scripture (Introduction)
I intend to offer, over the next several weeks, a four part series on Calvin's response to Rome's doctrine of Scripture as discovered in the fourth session of the Council of Trent. It's my impression that very few Protestants today -- even the confessing kind -- have informed views on what Rome actually says about the most important theological issues of every age (namely, how we know anything about God and his ways, and how we sinners can be reconciled to the God whom we have offended by our sins).
The first and foremost purpose of this brief series, then, is to let readers see what Rome, in her own words, says about Scripture, and to let Calvin guide us in an intelligent (and, ultimately, biblically based and theological nuanced) critique of Rome's doctrine. Careful attention to Rome's teaching on Scripture (not to mention Justification, the Sacraments, etc.) and careful critique of the same will, I think, shed light upon the reason(s) that confessional Protestants remain, well, Protesters -- that is, why they refrain as a matter of principle from expressing doctrinal solidarity with Rome.
A secondary reason for offering this series is that I suspect Calvin's own teaching on Scripture in response to Trent might surprise -- even challenge -- Reformed folk at some points, and there's few things more beneficial to any confessional group than being surprised and challenged by the Genevan Reformer on matters where, perhaps, no surprise or challenge is anticipated.
A brief word of historical context: The Roman Catholic Council of Trent convened in 1545 with the express intention of responding to the teaching of both magisterial (Protestant) and radical reformers. It met on and off until 1563. Already by 1547, however, the Council had tackled some of the fundamental issues at stake in the Reformation -- namely, Scripture, Original Sin, Justification, and the Sacraments. By the end of that same year (1547) Calvin had produced his Antidote to Trent (in Selected Works of John Calvin, Tracts and Letters, vol. 3), and stood ready to administer the same to anyone who was foolish or unfortunate enough to confuse Trent's poisonous teachings for something nutritious.
Stay tuned for the first installment of our consideration of Trent's teaching and Calvin's response to the same.
Aaron Clay Denlinger is professor of church history and historical theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida.