Lean and Means

Charles Pope — good for him, none of this Rodney King, CTC pose — takes issue with Protestants for separating faith from works, grace from transformation (ugh), and Scripture from church authority:

There are a lot of “solos” sung by our Protestant brethren: Sola Fide (saved by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is the rule of faith), and sola gratia (grace alone). (See the Protestant logo to the right.) Generally, one ought to be suspicious and careful of claims that things work “alone.” It is our usual experience that many things work together in harmony, that things are interrelated. Very seldom is anyone or anything “alone.”

The problem of the “solos” emerges (it seems to me) in our minds, where it is possible to separate things out. But the fact is, just because we can separate something out in our mind does not mean that we can separate it out in reality.

What Pope doesn’t seem to consider, first of all, is that the solas of the Reformation were not mere intellectual exercises but efforts to restore the supremacy of Christ and his accomplishments (both in redemption and revelation). You clutter up Christ with images and pilgrimages and stigmata and saints and the next thing you know you don’t have Christ alone. And where will you be on that great day?

But, second of all, does Pope ever wonder how sloppy Christianity gets when you don’t eliminate some of the clutter? When it comes to marriage and divorce, Pope can sound pretty sola himself. He doesn’t want divorcees to be harmonized with faithful spouses, or marriage between husband and wife cluttered with gay marriage.

So either Pope is selective in the way he separates things or is unaware of the importance of such separation. Either way, for those Christians who wanted a reform of the Western Christian Church, Pope’s desire for seeing the interrelations of things is an important reason for doubting that a reformation of Rome will ever happen. As Mike Horton said somewhere, you can’t keep adding pages to the notebook. At some point, you need to take out the page the conflicts with the one you just inserted. After Vatican 2, though, the Roman church’s mode seems to be insertionamento.