Irreconcilable Differences Between the Protestant Solas and Roman Catholic Dogma

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Tonight I read a helpful review by Scott Manetsch, who is associate professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and the associate general editor of IVP’s forthcoming Reformation Commentary Series. The review, originally published in the Trinity Journal, is of Noll and Nystrom’s much-discussed book, Is the Reformation Over?

I found the following to be a helpful summary of the irreconcilable differences between Reformational Protestantism and the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. (I took the liberty of adding the italics.)

In summary, this reviewer believes it impossible to reconcile the classic Protestant solas with the teaching of the Catholic Catechism.

  • For Roman Catholics, Scripture and Tradition are two distinct but equal modes of revealed authority which the magisterium of the Roman Church has sole responsibility to transmit and interpret. For the early Protestant reformers, the holy Scripture provides final normative authority for Christian doctrine and practice, standing as judge above all institutions and ecclesial traditions.
  • For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified because of inherent righteousness. For the mainstream Protestant reformers, sinners are accepted on the basis of the righteousness of another—namely, the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to them.
  • For Roman Catholics, sinners are both justified by unmerited grace at baptism and (subsequently) justified by those infused graces merited by cooperating with divine grace. For the magisterial reformers, sinners are justified before God by grace alone.
  • For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified by faith (in baptism), but not by faith alone. For the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, sinners are justified by faith alone.
  • For Roman Catholics, justification is a process of renewal that affords no solid basis for Christian assurance in this life. For reformers such as Luther and Calvin, justification is God’s decisive verdict of forgiveness and righteousness that assures Christian believers of the acceptance and love of their heavenly Father.
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